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11 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s You Need to Know

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Misplacing car keys? Struggling to find the right word in a conversation? Withdrawing from social activities Any of these can be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is commonly associated with memory problems. However it’s important to understand that memory is only one of the cognitive functions that the disease can damage. In this post, we’ll explore the most common early signs of Alzheimer\’s—the ones that can help you catch the disease in its early stages.

1. Forgetting Recent Information

Memory loss is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. But more than that, it’s one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s that differentiates this condition from other types of dementia.

Examples include missing an appointment with your dentist that you made a few days ago or asking a friend to keep repeating something they’ve already said because you can’t remember what it was. Forgetting time and location are also common signs, and they can be unsettling. Also common is the misplacement of everyday items.

Unlike natural forgetfulness, the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s tends to be definitive in that the information you can’t remember doesn’t return to you. Memory loss can also affect your ability to acquire new information.

2.  Having Difficulties Solving Mental Tasks

Calculating the optimal amounts of each ingredient for a recipe or completing an online course—Alzheimer’s may affect your ability to solve problems. Completing these tasks may take considerably longer than before. Or you may find yourself constantly retracing your steps.

When Alzheimer’s sets in, following instructions becomes more challenging. This can be an especially worrying sign if you’re used to solving problems and your ability to do so suddenly declines.

3. Having a Hard Time Managing Personal Finances

One of the most common early signs of Alzheimer’s, and one that follows from the previous one, is having trouble keeping track of bills or planning expenses. Even simple operations like transferring money between bank accounts may pose challenges.

Alzheimer’s affects cognitive function, and managing finances taps into that to perform calculations and project expenses. If you find yourself asking your partner or someone close to you to help you manage your finances, it can be a red flag.

4. Not Communicating As Easily As Before

People who develop Alzheimer’s can find it harder to maintain a conversation or express themselves. The condition can affect your ability to describe people, places, things, or events.

You may also have trouble finding the right word. Or you may call something by the wrong word. You may also repeat yourself, something that the person you’re talking with may observe before you do.

5. Getting Lost in a Familiar Place

Our ability to navigate spaces relies to a large extent on our working memory. Even when we don’t use physical maps, we carry mental ones that help us internalize both common routes and places we visit only now and then.

Getting lost while driving to a friend’s place can be one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s. Also common is having trouble returning home after taking a slightly different route than usual. Having trouble using a map is also a worrying sign, this study found.

6. Losing Interest in Favorite Pastimes

Early-stage Alzheimer’s doesn’t cause depression per se, but it can cause apathy and make you lose motivation. Skipping your weekly chess match with your buddies if you’ve never missed it before for no good reason other than not being excited about it can be a sign.

Of course, it’s normal to feel out of sorts at times. But if you experience depression-like symptoms without any cause, that should raise concerns. Alzheimer’s may cause people to isolate themselves. This can be a gradual process. And often, it begins with saying no to things that before you enjoyed saying yes to.

7. Having Trouble Judging Distances

Alzheimer’s disease can affect parts of the brain responsible for the processing of visual information. Often, the first manifestation comes in the form of trouble judging distances at home or while driving.

This could lead to bumping into things or feeling uneasy behind the wheel. This is a very serious sign, as it may increase the risk of being involved in a car accident. Other early signs of Alzheimer’s associated with visual difficulties include struggling to differentiate colors or finding it hard to read.

8. Making Detrimental Decisions

It’s not uncommon for people with Alzheimer’s in its early stages to spend more time than before making even simple decisions. Or to consistently make poor decisions.

Making decisions involves weighing different factors and tapping into your memory for instances when you had to make similar decisions. Alzheimer’s can make internalized facts and their relationships less accessible to your working mind.

Expense-related decisions are a case in point. Having Alzheimer’s can make a person more likely to say yes to cold calls, direct mail offers, or donation requests beyond their means.

9. Not Caring About Yourself All That Much

Whether it’s hygiene, taking medicines, or skipping meals, Alzheimer’s disease may significantly impact the amount of attention you offer your body. This is due to the mix of apathy, depression-like symptoms, and memory loss that the disease triggers.

Things don’t have to become as serious as forgetting to brush your teeth. The signs can be subtler, like wearing the same clothes repeatedly, not looking after your hair as carefully as before, or no longer eating your favorite foods. Your family and close friends may notice these early signs of Alzheimer’s before you do.

10. Losing Sleep

At least one study found that Alzheimer’s disease disrupts our biological clock—the circadian rhythm. More specifically, it delays the sleeping cycle so that falling asleep at night takes longer.

People with Alzheimer’s are more likely to feel tired during the day as a result of poor sleep patterns. Sleep problems in themselves can have many causes. But when they appear in conjunction with some of the other early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease we’ve covered so far, they can be worrying.

Having trouble sleeping can be easy to disregard. But if the problem persists, consider discussing it with your doctor.

11. Experiencing Personality Changes

Personality changes as an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease are not always common, but when they are, they stand out. For example, a person who has always been the soul of the party may become very quiet and not say much.

Personality changes in Alzheimer’s are usually noted by family and close friends. The person with Alzheimer’s may not notice them or become defensive if these changes are brought up. Personality changes may also involve withdrawal from social life, including the avoidance of friends and family.

The Bottom Line

In the end, the important thing to remember is that in Alzheimer’s, the signs and symptoms we’ve described tend to reoccur. Forgetting an appointment, losing your way, or not finding the wrong word can happen to anyone now and then.

But when these occur repeatedly and can be associated with other symptoms of cognitive decline, they can become early signs of Alzheimer’s. Managing these symptoms and controlling the condition becomes easier with a prompt diagnosis.

Whether you are worried about yourself or notice these symptoms in others, discussing them with a doctor can bring you peace of mind.