Back on the 1980s when the term Alzheimer’s came become popularly known, it was common for doctors to diagnose patients as having Alzheimer’s when there was really no way to be sure.
There are other conditions with similar symptoms. Some of those conditions and diseases are life-threatening, and some of them are treatable.
As Alzheimer’s became more widely known, more and more people were (rightly or wrongly) diagnosed with it. Many others became fearful of getting it, especially if they had a close family member who had been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s.
Nowadays a bit more is known about Alzheimer’s. Most doctors are not quite so quick to label patients with it. There are more and better tests. And there are actually some treatments that help Alzheimer’s patients greatly by slowing or stopping the progress of the disease.
When people fear that there is no help for a disease, they may avoid going to the doctor for fear of receiving the feared diagnosis. They may ignore ore deny symptoms for years. Sometimes that keeps them from getting treatment that would have prevented or lessened the very thing they fear.
The Alzheimer’s Association has published a list of the warning signs of Alzheimers. On the same page is a list of the differences between Alzheimer’s and some of the many conditions that can have similar symptoms.
10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s
1. Memory loss. Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later.
What’s normal? Forgetting names or appointments occasionally.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks. People with dementia often find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. Individuals may lose track of the steps involved in preparing a meal, placing a telephone call or playing a game.
What’s normal? Occasionally forgetting why you came into a room or what you planned to say.
3. Problems with language. People with Alzheimer’s disease often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. They may be unable to find the toothbrush, for example, and instead ask for “that thing for my mouth.”
What’s normal? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
4. Disorientation to time and place. People with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost in their own neighborhood, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.
What’s normal? Forgetting the day of the week or where you were going.
5. Poor or decreased judgment. Those with Alzheimer’s may dress inappropriately, wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show poor judgment, like giving away large sums of money to telemarketers.
What’s normal? Making a questionable or debatable decision from time to time.
6. Problems with abstract thinking. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are for and how they should be used.
What’s normal? Finding it challenging to balance a checkbook.
7. Misplacing things. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
What’s normal? Misplacing keys or a wallet temporarily.
8. Changes in mood or behavior. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may show rapid mood swings—from calm to tears to anger – for no apparent reason.
What’s normal? Occasionally feeling sad or moody.
9. Changes in personality. The personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member.
What’s normal? People’s personalities do change somewhat with age.
10. Loss of initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities.
What’s normal? Sometimes feeling weary of work or social obligations.
When Should You Be Concerned?
If you’ve noticed memory changes that worrying you, call the Alzheimer’s Association anytime at 1.866.ALZ.4199.