What Are the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia can develop slowly over a number of years, which sometimes makes it easy to mistake them for normal, age-related cognitive decline instead of the result of a more serious problem. Because the symptoms progress slowly, it’s easy for loved one’s to deny they even exist until an event happens that is so uncharacteristic or bizarre that the symptoms become undeniable.

An article by Karen Wilder, the widow of Gene Wilder who recently died of Alzheimer’s disease, describes his initial symptoms as small. It was not until her husband, a normally kind a tender man, lashed out at his grandson, exhibited a loss of depth perception, and was unable to recall the name of a movie in which he had starred that she knew something was terribly wrong.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following are ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life, especially newly-learned information. Early symptoms include repeatedly asking the same questions, and increasingly relying on memory aids, such as notes, to recall routine tasks.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. The onset of Alzheimer’s can make it difficult keep track of finances, and plan and cook meals.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure, such as driving to a familiar location or recalling the rules of a game.
  4. Disorientation of time or place. Those with Alzheimer’s can experience confusion about where they are, how they got there, or what day it is.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, such as the depth perception Gene Wilder experienced. His widow described a situation in which her husband believed he would crash into a tree even though it was many feet away.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s struggle with remembering the right word or use the wrong word to describe familiar objects.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps to locate them. In a book I’m reading called “The Bonesetter’s Daughter,” a character who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s thinks another character has stolen her purse because she cannot recall where it is.
  8. Poor or impaired judgment. Those with Alzheimer’s may be more prone to give away large sums of money to telemarketers, dress inappropriately, or keep up with personal hygiene.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality. Symptoms can include mood swings, anxiety and delusions.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends seeing a doctor right away if you or someone you love experiences any of these symptoms because early diagnosis and treatment can delay the progression of Alzheimer’s.

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