Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that causes a slow decline in memory and reasoning. For someone with Alzheimer’s, symptoms typically start to appear when he reaches his mid-60s. An estimated 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s—the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
Recognize some of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s so you can help a loved one … or yourself. Early detection provides more time to plan for the future and maximize benefits from available treatments.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
It’s typical to forget someone’s name or miss an appointment once in a while, especially with age. However, constantly forgetting important dates or repeatedly having to ask for the same information may be a sign of a more serious problem. Placing items in unusual places, for instance, stashing keys in the fridge — and accusing others of theft when something cannot be found – is another example of a deteriorating memory.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Struggling to drive to familiar locations or recall the rules of a favorite game are red flags. Furthermore, someone with Alzheimer’s may have trouble judging distances or determining color and contrast, which can make driving even trickier.
A person with Alzheimer’s may lose track of seasons or the passage of time. Sometimes, he may forget where he is or how he arrived at a destination. This should not be confused with occasionally forgetting what day of the week it is, which is normal.
- Changes in mood or personality
It’s not a good sign if someone starts to regularly withdraw himself from social events, hobbies or professional responsibilities. Watch for changes in mood or personality. If someone becomes confused, suspicious, depressed or anxious, that may be a sign of Alzheimer’s.
- Decline in judgment
Someone with Alzheimer’s may use poor judgment when it comes to money or personal hygiene. Take note if a loved one is recklessly spending cash or making less effort to keep himself presentable.
How is Alzheimer’s different from dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to symptoms caused by brain-affecting disorders. Signs of dementia may include the inability to solve problems, control emotions, or complete routine activities such as getting dressed or eating. Of the several diseases that can lead to dementia, including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause.