Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that affects over half a million Floridians over age 65 each year. Cognitive decline may manifest at an earlier age than expected in patients who ultimately are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Some common early warning signs, according to The Alzheimer’s Association, include:
Disruptive memory loss
It’s okay to forget the occasional name or date, but forgetting them a lot and not remembering them later is a sign of a problem.
Inability to plan or solve problems
We all forget to pay the electric bill once or twice, but people suffering from early Alzheimer’s may forget to pay all their bills, pay the wrong amounts, or send checks to incorrect addresses. They may not be able to follow a recipe they’ve made a million times before, or it may take them much longer than usual.
Familiar tasks become difficult
Forgetting how to do familiar tasks, like going grocery shopping or driving to a close relative’s home, is an early sign of cognitive decline.
Not oriented to time or place
Early Alzheimer’s patients struggle with short-term and new memories, so they often believe they are currently living in a year or place from the past. They may often forget where they are or how they arrived and may struggle to remember previously familiar dates, like birthdays.
Problems with driving and balance often emerge during the early stages of dementia due to vision problems. Former avid readers may also find themselves unable to understand written words.
Inability to speak or write as usual
Along with problems reading, early Alzheimer’s patients also experience trouble speaking and writing, even familiar things like their own signature.
Inability to find lost items or retrace steps
It’s normal to misplace your keys sometimes, but it’s not normal to not eventually find them. Early Alzheimer’s patients frequently misplace items and never find them again.
Mishandling money and poor personal hygiene, both signs of poor judgment, are common in early Alzheimer’s patients.
No longer interested in social activities
Since verbal communication becomes quite difficult for Alzheimer’s patients, they may withdraw from all social activities to avoid others noticing their struggle.
Odd changes in mood and personality
Early Alzheimer’s patients will experience mood and personality changes related to their cognitive decline. Often, this is the first thing friends and family notice in an early Alzheimer’s patient. Something may just seem “off” about the patient’s behavior. Confusion, paranoia, and anger may become common emotions for the patient.
If you notice any of these signs of early Alzheimer’s disease in your friend or loved one, please contact their primary care physician immediately to schedule an exam and diagnostic testing. There are medications available by prescription that can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, but early diagnosis is key to achieving the best possible outcome for the individual and their quality of life.