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Assessing the Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

Assessing the Early Signs of Alzheimer's

Most researchers and medical experts in the field of dementia seem to agree on 10 main early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The list of symptoms, which appears on, is intended to help, but many people experience confusion and dismay when they see it.

It’s important to note that all of the itemized signs can and do occur for many reasons other than Alzheimer’s.

Take a look at the list first:

  • Memory loss and forgetfulness
  • Inability to make plans and solve problems
  • Difficulty finishing familiar tasks
  • Confusion on time or place
  • Vision problems and interpretation
  • Difficulty speaking and writing
  • Misplacing items
  • Poor judgment and decision-making
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Changes in moods

The first problem with this list shows why it may lead any person to wonder about the possibility of developing the disease. Many of the items seem normal behavior for most people, particularly as they age.  What wife hasn’t complained about her husband forgetting their anniversary?  Who of us hasn’t lost their keys, couldn’t remember the “right” word for an occasion, made a dumb decision, forgotten to pay a bill or even had trouble making coffee?  A reader could ask, “Does this mean I’m getting Alzheimer’s?”

Seniors often joke about their quirks and say, “Maybe I have sometimes.”  Worry, however, lies underneath such quips.  The question becomes, “When does ‘normal’ become “abnormal”?

Another problem with such lists involves potential misdiagnosis of the disease.  Many of these signs present with other illnesses like thyroid problems or mental health disorders such as depression.  Simple dehydration due to poor appetite often creates bizarre behavior.  Also, seniors often prescribed many medications can become over medicated.

The trick with any list such as these signs is to learn how to apply them.  People looking for answers should use four criteria to evaluate each of the symptoms in the list.

  • First, look at the frequency of occurrence.  How often does the behavior happen?  Once in a while differs vastly from several times weekly.  Also, evaluate any progression of the behavior.  If it used to happen once a week, has it escalated to every day?
  • Second, evaluate the severity of the behavior.  There is a vast difference between actions which everyone laughs off and the kind that cause severe disruption to the person’s daily activities and those of the family.
  • Third, notice any significant changes in the person’s behavior, appearance, or habits.
  • Finally, notice how many of the signs apply.  If four or more symptoms are presenting, then Alzheimer’s may be a factor.

Here’s a closer look at applying these evaluations.

Many seniors run a standing joke about losing things.  One lady, for example, loses her reading glasses so often she has a dozen pair all over her house, yet still can’t find one when she wants them.  Is this a sign of onset Alzheimer’s?  Possibly, but maybe she has always misplaced things.  In that case, it is not new behavior  (“new” being a key word, here).  On the other hand, if she often puts her glasses in odd places like the refrigerator, that could signify a more serious problem.

As you review each sign, keep in mind the words, “new,” “changed,” “disruptive” and “out of character.”  These are vital considerations when considering if it’s the onset of Alzheimer’s.  If you still have questions, then it’s time to see a physician.  Doctors now have many tests for diagnosing Alzheimer’s to settle the issue one way or another.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease, especially for those who must endure watching their loved one’s deterioration.  While there is no cure for the disorder, there is a treatment to slow the progression and reduce symptoms.  Ongoing research offers hope for the future.