Early signs of Alzheimer’s – what to watch out for

As all of us age, it’s normal to suffer a little from memory loss. However, if a person in your care starts to suffer memory loss that disrupts daily life, this may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. There are 10 warning signs to watch out for when on the lookout for Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disease that causes a decline in thinking, reasoning and memory.

1. Significant memory loss that impacts daily activities
Memory loss is one of the most significant signs of Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, forgetting recently received information, significant events or dates, repeatedly asking the same information, or increasingly relying on family members or those around them for memory cues.

Early signs of Alzheimers - A Sage Aged Care article

2. Increasing difficulty in solving problems or planning
This problem involves a lack of concentration, resulting in tasks taking longer than before to complete. For example, working with numbers, keeping track of regular bills, or reading a familiar timetable may become a lot more challenging than before.

3. Losing track of time or place
Confusion with dates, weeks, seasons or any passage of time is a typical symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Unless something is happening immediately, the Alzheimer’s sufferer may have trouble comprehending the time. Typically, this can result in him or her not understanding how they arrived at the destination.

4. Day-to-day tasks at home or work become difficult
Completing familiar tasks become a problem for those suffering with dementia. Simple tasks that we take for granted such as remembering the rules of a game, walking to a familiar destination, or explaining a routine procedure at work may become uncomfortably challenging.

Early signs of Alzheimer's disease - A Sage Aged Care article

5. Vision problems – difficulty with reading or comprehending colours
Visual images, spatial relationships and words can all become increasingly difficult to comprehend for those with Alzheimer’s. Colours and contrast in colours become difficult to decipher, making ordinary tasks such as driving, or reading signs and information more difficult.

6. Emerging issues with conversing and writing
Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may start to experience problems following a conversation. This can be due to a few issues, such as not understanding certain words spoken, feeling challenged trying to find the right words, or replacing the correct word for made up words, such as calling a “car” a “home-buggy”.

7. Noticeable shifts in personality and mood
As the individual’s brain slowly deteriorates, there can be changes in mood and personality. He or she may start to suffer from anxiety or depression, as well as becoming more confused, suspicious and generally fearful. As the world around him or her becomes more and more confusing, the individual starts to retract back into the safer environment of home, as places outside their comfort zone become too disorientating, confusing and frightening, which further alters their mood.

A Sage Aged Care article about signs of Alzheimer's Disease

8. Losing items and forgetting recent activities
We’ve all been guilty of forgetting our car keys or losing our mobile phone, but for people with Alzheimer’s disease, this becomes an all too regular occurrence. Losing ‘things’, along with putting items in strange places, such as placing a wallet in the fridge, start to happen more frequently. Because of such misunderstandings, those with Alzheimer’s are sometimes accused of shoplifting as it is all too easy to pick something up and take it home, totally oblivious as to what the object is or to whom it belongs.

9. Poor decision-making skills and judgement
For those with Alzheimer’s disease the normal rationale we possess starts to fade away, making them prone to poor judgement and bad decisions. Giving away excessive money to charity, purchasing unwanted goods, or inappropriately dressing, such as wearing a summer dress on a winter’s day, or paying no attention to grooming, are all typical signs of changes in cognitive judgement.

10. Becoming increasingly withdrawn and antisocial
Part of the reason for people with Alzheimer’s becoming increasingly withdrawn is because life is becoming more frightening. As Alzheimer’s progresses, it’s harder to read, decipher colours and shapes; memory fades, and the ability to remember where we’re going or how we got there become increasingly difficult. It’s only natural then that the individual wants to retreat back to their home and stay there, communicating less often – and with fewer individuals. They also simply forget the activities they’ve been involved in in the past and simply have trouble keeping up with things around them when they do venture out.

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Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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