With age comes the inevitability of forgetting things, not remembering where something was placed, struggling for a memory.  These things can be frightening to someone who wonders if these symptoms are the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.  For the most part, these are just normal symptoms of aging. But it’s important to know the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease so that one can watch out for these in a loved one, and also to differentiate between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

The 10 Warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease:

Memory loss that disrupts daily life.  This is more significant memory loss than simply forgetting small details here and there.  This is memory loss that impacts the ability to get places, carry on normal work, and take care of oneself. This is when memory loss makes normal life difficult to maintain.

Challenges in planning or solving problems. Losing the ability to see things or plan things as a person once could.  Where a mind was once able to foresee how a situation might go, it can no longer anticipate problems, plan for contingencies, or consider a variety of options.

•Difficulty completing familiar tasks.  This means difficulty driving, putting on one’s clothes, going to the grocery store, etc.  This includes any task that was once able to be done without much planning or thought, but now poses great difficulty.

•Confusion with time or place.  When someone can’t remember where they are or what day/month/year it is. This starts small with forgetting the day, but quickly expands to having no idea what year one is even in.  

Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.  Looking at a picture might once have posed no problem for recognition, but now it doesn’t make sense at all.  

New problems with words in speaking or writing.  Words that always came easily to a person, are suddenly gone from the memory.  This could include having trouble writing – where once one could write without any thought, now he/she can’t remember the correct way to put words on paper.

Misplacement of things and loss in the ability to retrace steps.  A common example of this is someone arriving at a store they frequent a lot, but suddenly they can’t find their way home. This also means someone forgetting where their bedroom is in their house, or not remembering where they keep their pots and pans, even though those have been in the same place for decades.

•Decreased or poor judgment.  This is the inability to make rational decisions, make good choices in the heat of the moment, or understand what others are communicating.

Withdrawal from work or social activities.  Because of all of the confusion and uncertainty, one may start to avoid social activities and events.  Often with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, people experience a great sense of anxiety over not remembering things or not remembering where they are.  This causes them to avoid situations where the forgetfulness may be obvious to others.

•Changes in mood or personality.  Losing one’s memory is a frightening situation. Life seems much more dark and unhappy in a place like this.  People struggling with Alzheimer’s disease often became moody and angry. This can come across in rages or fits that other people don’t see coming.

Memory loss is scary and unpredictable.  It is common for all aging people to experience some confusion in memory, but a normal level of confusion greatly differentiates from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.  

When trying to differentiate between aging and dementia, be sure to be on the lookout for the signs above. If you suspect someone you know is showing signs of Alzheimer’s and in need of special care the dedicated staff at HarborView Senior Assisted Living is here to help.