Alzheimer’s disease causes damage to your brain cells, affecting memory, thinking, emotions, behaviour and mood. It is a progressive disease and the most common cause of dementia.
At the moment there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s but being aware of the warning signs can help you take steps to slow down the progression of this distressing disease. So, here are 10 early signs of which to be aware.
1. Memory loss
Signs of Alzheimer’s-related memory loss include forgetting information you just learned, and forgetting important dates, names and events. Other signs include repeatedly asking for the same information, and relying heavily on memory aids, such as sticky notes and reminder apps on your smartphone.
2. Trouble planning and problem solving
This is usually expressed as trouble making plans and sticking to them, and finding it tricky to concentrate on detailed tasks, such as following a recipe (even one you’ve used many times) and especially anything that involves numbers (e.g. keeping track of your bills).
3. Daily tasks are a challenge
Familiar tasks, whether they’re for the home, work or leisure, such as driving to a usual location, completing an ordinary task at work or forgetting the rules to your favourite game can become difficult.
4. Times and places are confusing
Dates, seasons and the passage of time become confusing. There is difficulty in understanding something if it’s not happening now. And sometimes people with Alzheimer’s may forget where they are and how they got there.
5. Vision problems
A sign of Alzheimer’s can be difficulty in processing visual images and spatial relations. This can translate to trouble with reading, judging distances and determining colour or contrast. Experiencing these symptoms makes it challenging to drive.
6. Problems with speaking and writing
Following, joining or continuing a conversation can become difficult. Vocabulary becomes a struggle, often calling things by the wrong name, repeating things or not being able to find the right word.
7. You lose things
While it’s normal to misplace your keys, it’s not normal to put them somewhere odd, such as the oven or fridge, then accuse your spouse of stealing them.
8. Changes in judgment
The ability to make judgment or decisions declines. For example, when dealing with money, you may give away large amounts than you normally would. Also, personal hygiene and grooming may go by the wayside.
9. Social withdrawal
Social withdrawal can include ceasing involvement in hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. This may happen because of the other symptoms experienced. Feeling weary of work, family and social obligations is also a sign.
10. Mood changes
Typical signs of mood changes in Alzheimer’s are becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. This may be expressed as getting upset at home or work, with friends, or when out of your comfort zone. Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted is also a sign.
If you notice any of these warning signs, talk with your doctor. He or she will evaluate your physical and mental health, and may then refer you to someone who specialises in Alzheimer’s disease, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist or geriatrician (a doctor who specialises in treating older adults).