Many adults share one fear: to lose one’s memory and cognitive functions through Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The prospect of losing oneself to dementia can be so daunting that many postpone seeking medical help, or persuade themselves nothing is wrong.
If you think you or a loved one might be developing dementia, go see a doctor. While there’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, early treatment can slow down the disease, and the sooner it is discovered, the better.
It is also important to know symptoms that seem to point to Alzheimer’s sometimes have nothing to do with the disease, and some conditions are treatable. Symptoms reminiscent of dementia can be caused by a variety of factors such as depression, certain medications, thyroid conditions, and even vitamin deficiencies.
How to tell the difference between Alzheimer’s and normal forgetfulness
It’s normal to be scatter-brained or forget things. Most of us forget where we put the keys or glasses, go to the store for milk and return with something else, or turn on a computer and pull up a web browser just to find we forgot what we were going to do.
A person with normal memory function is aware of forgetting things and can take steps to remedy the problem. If these problems occur on a daily basis they can be signs of dementia creeping up, but they don’t have to be.
Ten common signs of Alzheimer’s
- Memory loss that impacts everyday life, such as forgetting important dates and appointments, repeating information, or forgetting to have used household appliances and wondering why they’re turned on.
- Problems with daily planning and problem solving. A person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s can have problems following recipes or other instructions, or encounter difficulties with math, such as balancing their checkbook.
- New problems completing tasks that used to be familiar. For example, forgetting how to do things at work or around the house.
- Losing track of appointments and even seasons. Many with Alzheimer’s forget where they are, get lost in familiar areas, or forget how they got where they are.
- Difficulties reading, judging distance, and understanding spatial relationships.
- Forgetting words, or replacing familiar words with something that doesn’t make sense.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace the steps to find it. For example, it’s normal to forget the coffee cup in the kitchen and have to go back to get it. A person developing dementia won’t be able to figure out where it is, it’s just gone.
- Decreasing judgment. A person developing Alzheimer’s may think it’s a great idea to give away all their money to someone who knocks on the door, or neglect to pay bills because they’re not important.
- Withdrawal from social situations.
- Developing anxieties, depression, being irritable, suspicious, or fearful. Many with developing Alzheimer’s will misplace things and think someone took them.
If you’re worried about Alzheimer’s, see your healthcare professional. It is also a good idea to make sure your mind and body get exercise. See friends, and challenge your mind with puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku, or reading.