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What are early signs of Alzheimer’s disease?

Jan. 23, 2017


You’re deep in a conversation with a friend and suddenly you can’t remember an acquaintance’s name.

You can see her face. That name is almost, almost there. But not quite.

Blushing, you laugh, call it "a senior moment" and move on. Five minutes later, that person’s name comes to you. You might overlook it, but then you might wonder, "Am I losing my memory? Should I be concerned?"

Probably not. We all have memory lapses every now and then, and with information overload on a daily basis, it’s no wonder. But there are some signs of Alzheimer’s disease to look for as we get older.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers these 10 early signs and symptoms you might want to consider if an aging friend or loved one’s behavior has changed recently. They could signal Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

"Every individual may experience one or more of these signs in a different degree. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor," alz.org says.

Memory loss that disrupts daily life

There’s forgetting that name, and then there’s forgetting something you just learned or asking the same questions repeatedly. New, extreme reliance on memory prompts, such as lists, is another sign.

Difficulty planning or solving problems

A family member might have trouble following a recipe that has been a kitchen staple for 30 years or keeping track of monthly bills.

Difficulty completing familiar tasks

This includes losing your way to the church you attend regularly or to a friend’s house, or forgetting the rules of SEC football when you’ve been a fan since your college days.

Time or place confusion

In addition to forgetting where they are or how they got there, those possibly suffering from Alzheimer’s might forget what month or season of the year it is.

Trouble with spatial relationships

This can affect driving or walking. It includes trouble judging distance, color and contrast.

New speaking or writing difficulties

One example is being in the middle of a conversation with friends and suddenly be unable to continue in the conversation, perhaps unable to continue a thought or to keep up with what others are saying. The person may struggle with once-familiar words or call things the wrong name.

Misplacing items, difficulty backtracking

We all misplace things, but a person with early onset of Alzheimer’s might put them in unusual locations (car keys in the freezer, for example). Once the item is misplaced, the person has difficulty retracing steps to locate it. The person might accuse others of stealing, and this problem can increase over time.

Poor judgment

The scary incidents include giving large sums of money to strangers, but more subtle signs include a marked decrease in grooming or keeping themselves clean.

Withdrawal from activities

This includes withdrawing from clubs, sports or social gatherings that once brought enjoyment. The person might have trouble following the rules of the sport, or because they can tell something is amiss, they want to avoid others so the problems are less likely to be detected.

Mood, personality changes

Has someone close to you who is aging suddenly become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious? Is that person touchy if serious lapses are noted? Is he or she easily upset at home or somewhere out of the comfort zone?

The Alzheimer’s Association advises scheduling an appointment with a doctor if these signs are apparent. The sooner they are addressed, the sooner help will be available.

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McClatchy-Tribune Information Services