Alzheimer’s disease is a cruel and heartbreaking illness, one that steals not only the health and vibrancy of older men and women but their very identities as well. Alzheimer’s disease steals the very things that make them special, disrupting family interactions, destroying cherished friendships and forcing loved ones to watch the slow decline, all while they are unable to help or do anything to stop the progression. Despite some progress, Alzheimer’s remains a difficult disease to treat, and the best chance at treatment is early detection. Here are 15 early signs of Alzheimer’s disease that should never be ignored.
1. Concerns about memory
If you are worried about your memory, you should trust your gut and seek a medical diagnosis for your memory loss. It could be nothing, or it could be an early warning sign for something much worse. No matter what your age or other health conditions, you should never ignore a sudden decrease in your memory capacity or your ability to recall names, dates or other important information.
2. Forgetting words
Everyone experiences that “tip of the tongue” feeling from time to time. You are searching for the right word, only to have it slip away. Forgetting words occasionally may be no big deal, but frequent occurrences should be cause for concern. Forgetting words or being unable to find the right phrase is a common early warning sign for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
3. Problems with money
A lack of funds is one thing, but if you have the money and find yourself having problems paying bills and keeping track of due dates, you could be looking at early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Financial troubles are common in the early stages of the disease, and many sufferers may not realize what is going on until their condition is quite advanced.
4. Feelings of disorientation
If the route you drive to work every day suddenly looks unfamiliar or you find yourself getting lost while out walking or jogging, you should take those warning signs seriously. Those suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease often find themselves disoriented, not knowing exactly where they are or how to get back home.
5. Getting lost in conversations
There is more than one kind of disorientation, and those suffering from the early effects of Alzheimer’s disease may also get lost in conversation. If you have trouble keeping up with what others are saying or holding up your side of the conversation, it is important to talk to your doctor about what is going on. Getting lost in conversation could be as benign as a low grade hearing loss, or as serious as early onset Alzheimer’s.
6. Losing interest in beloved activities
If you have recently lost interest in a hobby or activity you used to enjoy, you should not ignore that warning sign. Failing to find joy in an activity or hobby you once loved could be a symptom of depression, but it could also be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Both conditions are serious, and it is important to seek a definitive diagnosis.
7. Problems with multitasking
While the effectiveness of multitasking is always a subject of debate in scientific circles, most people do it to some extent. Sudden changes in the ability to multitask and juggle multiple projects can be an early sign of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. If you always prided yourself on your ability to multitask and now can only tackle one thing at a time, it is time to talk to your doctor.
8. Waking up exhausted
Men and women who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease often experience disruptions in their sleep patterns, including a unique affliction known as sundowning where patients may wander in the wee hours of the night. But even before that, changes in sleep may become apparent, with affected individuals waking up exhausted after a night spent tossing and turning. If you experience any sudden changes in sleep and restfulness, skip the sleeping pills and call your doctor right away.
9. Feelings of depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are often distinct illnesses, but feelings of hopelessness and constant worries about the future can also be signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If your formerly chipper mom or dad is suddenly depressed and anxious, it is time to address the situation and find out if Alzheimer’s disease may be to blame.
10. Fuzzy memories of important events
It is normal for memories to fade over time, but a suddenly fuzzy recollection of important events in your life should always be cause for concern. If you can barely remember your wedding day, the birth of your first child or other pivotal moments in your life, it is important to share your concerns with an experienced memory expert or other health care practitioner.
11. Short term memory problems
If you keep asking your spouse what’s for dinner or keep walking into a room and not knowing why, it could be more than normal age related memory loss. Problems with short term memory and recall are common among those with Alzheimer’s disease, and these issues can arise even in the earliest stages of the illness. You might find that your short term memory lapses are perfectly normal, but it is important to know for sure.
12. Sudden changes in mood
If you find yourself flying off the handle at the slightest provocation or crying for no reason, you may be developing early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Those suffering from dementia often experience severe mood changes, including aggression, unexplained anger and unwarranted feelings of depression and anxiety. Any change in the way you feel mentally should be cause for concern, and should be addressed with your doctor right away.
13. Difficulty with the tasks of daily living
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia often experience difficulty completing tasks most people take for granted. Difficulty with these activities of daily living, or ADL, should be taken very seriously, and you should talk to your doctor if you are having trouble cooking, bathing or dressing.
14. Problems expressing yourself
If you used to be well spoken but now find yourself tongue tied, it is important not to ignore the situation. Those developing Alzheimer’s disease may find that they suddenly have problems expressing themselves or getting their point across. Think about the most recent conversations you have had and do an honest assessment of how you are doing – then talk to your doctor.
15. Impaired judgment
Problems with judgment are common among people with Alzheimer’s disease, even those in the earliest stages of the illness. If you have always prided yourself in your ability to make smart decisions and now find yourself unable to decide or making the wrong choice, you should talk to your doctor without delay.
Even decades after it was first recognized as an illness, Alzheimer’s disease has remained stubbornly hard to treat, but there are some pharmaceuticals that have been shown to slow the progression and give patients more years of quality life. But the key to these medications is early diagnosis, and that is why it is so important to know, and heed, the earliest warning signs of this heartbreaking, and currently fatal, disease.