As people age, changes occur all over the body, including in the brain. You might not always remember things as well as before, or you might misplace your glasses and keys more frequently. While this is typically simple forgetfulness, it’s good to know the signs of serious memory problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers these 10 warning signs to distinguish between what’s normal and what’s a warning sign of something more serious. Experiencing any of them warrants a doctor visit. Early detection gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for your future.
10 Alzheimer’s warning signs
- Memory loss that disrupts life. A hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease—especially forgetting recently learned information. Sometimes forgetting a name or date is common, but consistently forgetting important information or relying on others for things you used to handle on your own could be a problem.
- Difficulty planning or solving problems. People can have trouble developing and following a plan or working with numbers, including using recipes or tracking monthly bills. It’s perfectly normal to mess up the checkbook sometimes.
- Difficulty completing familiar daily tasks. People developing Alzheimer’s may have trouble driving to a familiar place or managing routine work tasks. It’s normal to sometimes need help with changing settings on a microwave or recording a TV show.
- Confusion with time or place. People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They might forget where they are or how they got there. It’s normal to forget what day of the week it is and figure it out later.
- Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Vision problems can be a sign of Alzheimer’s. Difficulty reading, judging distance, or figuring out colors can cause driving problems. Vision changes can also be related to cataracts.
- Problems with speaking or writing words. People with Alzheimer’s could have trouble following or carrying on a conversation. They sometimes struggle to use correct words, or they call things by the wrong name. It’s normal to have trouble finding the right word sometimes.
- Misplacing items and being unable to retrace steps. People with Alzheimer’s increasingly put things in odd places, can’t find them, and may accuse others of stealing the items. Occasionally misplacing items and retracing your steps to find them is normal.
- Poor judgment and decision-making. Hallmark signs can be making detrimental money decisions such as giving large amounts of money to questionable causes or paying less attention to grooming and cleanliness. An occasional bad decision or bad hair day is typical for everyone.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities. Stopping hobbies, work, or social activities is often a reaction to the difficulties those with Alzheimer’s are having with these daily activities. It’s normal to skip a work or social obligation sometimes.
- Mood and personality changes. People with Alzheimer’s can become easily upset when out of their comfort zone and grow confused, angry, depressed, or anxious. It’s normal as we age to develop a daily routine and become irritated if it is disrupted.