When we are young, we may experience a momentary memory lapse and think nothing much of it. As we grow older, these little memory lapses become known as a "senior moment." We cannot find our keys, or the reading glasses that are perched on top of our heads. We end up standing in the kitchen, looking around, trying to remember why we went in there in the first place.
These things are more likely to happen when we are tired, stressed, or trying to do too many things at once. However, the older we get, the more disconcerting these "senior moments" become. One of the first things that will pop into our minds is Alzheimer's disease. Knowing the 10 early warning signs of Alzheimer's can help remove those fears, or at least let us know when it's time to seek help.
#1 Disruptive Changes in Memory
We all forget someone's birthday, or the date of an appointment from time to time, only to remember it later. This is a normal part of a busy life. However, if your once sharp memory begins to fade to the point that it disrupts your life, it is time to talk to your doctor. If you are forgetting familiar names or dates frequently, if you are needing to ask the same questions repeatedly, or relying heavily on notes to get you through each day, then ask your family and friends if they have noticed a difference in you. Either way, you should be evaluated for these memory problems. The same goes for any family member experiencing a similar problem.
#2 Issues With Problem Solving
If you are usually a wizard with numbers, and suddenly find that you cannot solve math problems anymore, you might be experiencing an early sign of Alzheimer's. It is not uncommon to be unable to do math in your head on the fly, especially if you are stressed. However, if simple tasks that involve numbers or following certain steps start to feel foreign, see your doctor.
#3 Problems Completing Simple Tasks
Difficulty with familiar tasks may manifest itself as forgetting how to play chess or another game. You may have trouble remembering how to get to your sister's house, or how to change the furnace filter. These same sorts of problems may show up at work, too, such as forgetting how to run the printer. These problems should be explored with your physician, as they could be early warning signs of Alzheimer's. (Occasionally needing a bit of help when trying to reset the time stamp function on your camera is not a cause for concern.)
#4 Having Problems With Dates & Places
If you or a loved one begin to completely lose touch with dates or days of the week, you have cause to worry. Also, be concerned if you find yourself in places with no idea how you got there, where you are, or how to get back home.
#5 Problems With Vision & Spatial Relations
Sometime people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease begin to experience visual disturbances. You may suddenly find it hard to read, or colors and images begin to look different. You may also have a hard time judging distances, or may perceive things to be there that really aren't. While this could be a sign of other vision problems such as cataracts, it does warrant an evaluation.
#6 Being At a Loss For Words When Speaking or Writing
It is not unusual to lose a word from time to time, especially if you are rushed or tired. But when you or a loved one begin to lose words often, or call common items by the wrong name, Alzheimer's needs to be ruled out.
#7 Losing Things
When a person begins to lose things with frequency, and then has no idea how to retrace their steps, there is cause for worry. This change in memory can go so far as to find the affected person accusing someone of having stolen the lost item.
#8 Poor Judgment
From time to time, all make the occasional bad choice, or make a decision when not using our best judgment. We are all human, after all. Worry comes when you or a family member make repeatedly odd decisions. These poor decisions may begin as someone spending a great amount of money buying useless items on the TV shopping channels. These types of changes in behavior are suspicious, and you should seek help from your doctor.
It is not difficult to understand why a person who is having so many problems with their memory and functioning would begin to withdraw from family, friends and activities that once were enjoyable. Because their memory for simple events has become so faulty, people with Alzheimer's withdraw so as not to draw attention to the difficulties they are having, and to avoid potentially embarrassing situations. We all need some time away now and then, but withdrawing, in combination with other Alzheimer's disease signs, is something to examine.
#10 Changes In Personality
No one is happy all of the time, nor is anyone immune to the occasional bout of depression or irritability. But if your loved one is generally happy and upbeat, and suddenly is depressed or easily agitated, then the personality change is not to be looked at as a bad day, but rather a sign that Alzheimer's disease, or another problem, is present and in need of professional attention.
These warning signs do not all show up at once. At first, the changes are short and easy to ignore. As the disease progresses, more disabilities will become apparent. The sooner that you seek treatment, the sooner steps can be taken to control symptoms, and for all involved to learn how to cope with the diagnosis.