If you have noticed a bit of forgetfulness lately in yourself or a loved one, chances are you find those changes worrisome. Is it just the mild forgetfulness that comes with aging, or could it be something more serious, such as the beginning of Alzheimer's?
Knowing the early signs of Alzheimer's disease can help you tell the difference, so here are 10 of the most common ones:
1. Withdrawal from Hobbies – Losing interest in or understanding of hobbies, such as sports, can be an early sign of Alzheimer's.
2. Language Impairment – Struggling to translate thoughts into words is one of the most common early signs of Alzheimer's disease. A person may have trouble finding the right word to describe something, or substitute inappropriate ones without realizing it. They may have trouble recounting events in proper sequence or properly identifying everyday items.
3. Changes in Mood or Personality – The early stages of Alzheimer's can bring on changes in mood and personality, including bouts of depression, anxiety or fearfulness, or a person may seem uncharacteristically suspicious or even paranoid at times. Additionally, a person who is normally reserved can suddenly become much more outgoing, or a typically outgoing person may become withdrawn.
4. Apathy – Listlessness or apathy are common in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. A person may seem emotionally flat, losing interest in activities that they usually enjoy and/or spending time with friends and family.
5. Difficulty Completing Routine Tasks – Typically, this begins with more complex tasks that require multiple steps such as balancing a checkbook or playing a familiar board game with a lot of rules. Learning new tasks – even simple ones – may also become a struggle.
6. Frequent Feelings of Confusion – Confusion may center around issues of time such as the date, day of the week, or season, or be prompted by lapses in judgment, memory, or thinking that cause frustration and concern.
7. Difficulty Following Conversations or Stories – One of the most common early signs of Alzheimer's disease is a tendency to lose track of the storyline of a movie, play or TV program, or struggle to follow a conversation.
8. Diminishing Sense of Direction and Spatial Orientation – Areas of the brain responsible for these functions are among the first to be damaged by Alzheimer's disease, leading to difficulty recognizing familiar landmarks and routes, causing a person to become lost and/or disoriented much more easily than usual.
9. Repetition – Repeating the same tasks or questions is a common early sign of Alzheimer's disease.
10. Difficulty Handling Changes – A person who has begun to experience declines in memory or cognitive function typically compensates, often unconsciously, by developing strict routines, and changing them can cause anxiety and confusion.
If you have noticed any of these early signs of Alzheimer's disease in yourself or a loved one, making an appointment for a thorough medical evaluation is important and should be done as soon as possible. While there isn't yet a cure for Alzheimer's disease, there are treatments that can slow its progress, and many are most successful when the disease is caught in its earliest stages.