Warning Signs and Next Steps

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Signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are different from normal age-related changes. For example, sometimes forgetting why you walked into a room is a normal sign of aging. Not recognizing a room in your house may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Not recognizing a spouse or child is different than occasionally calling loved ones by the wrong name. When you observe behaviors that don’t seem to be typical signs of aging, what should you do? How do you have the conversation about getting them the help they need?

Forgetfulness and Aging Learn more about how Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias differ from normal aging and find out what steps to take if you are concerned about a loved one or friend.

See the Signs. Start a Conversation Follow these four steps to learn how to talk about Alzheimer’s disease.

Early Intervention Protects Quality of Life Learn why you should see a doctor as soon as you notice symptoms that are not typical signs of aging.

Is It Typical Aging or Alzheimer’s Disease?

The Alzheimer’s Association identifies 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. 

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Sometimes forgets names or appointments but remembers them later.
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Need frequent reminders about the day's schedule, asks the same questions over and over, or forgets family birthdays or children's names.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Makes occasional errors when managing finances or household bills.
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Has trouble following a familiar recipe or paying monthly bills.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Needs occasional help with the microwave or recording a TV show. 
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Has trouble getting to a familiar location.

4. Confusion with time or place

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Gets confused about the day of the week but figures is out later.
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Loses track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. Forgets where they are and how they got there. 

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Has vision changes due to cataracts.
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Has difficulty with reading, judging distance, or colors.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Sometimes has trouble finding the right word.
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Has trouble with familiar vocabulary (such as calling a "watch" a "hand clock" or difficulty joining or keeping up with a conversation.

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Misplaces things from time to time and has to retrace steps to find them.
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Puts things in unusual places such as house keys in the refrigerator. Loses things and is unable to retrace steps to find them. May accuse others of stealing items they can't find.

8. Decreased or poor judgment

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Needs occasional help with the microwave or recording a TV show.
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Displays poor judgement when handling money. Pays less attention to grooming or personal hygiene.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Sometimes needs a break from work, family or social obligations.
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Withdraws from hobbies and activities that involve people or has trouble following a favorite team.

10. Changes in mood and personality

  • Typical Age-Related Change: Becomes irritable when a routine is disrupted.
  • Sign of Alzheimer's: Shows extreme anxiety or anger with a change in routine. 

Adapted from the Alzheimer’s Association.  

If you notice any of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease in yourself or someone else, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with a doctor to discuss your concerns. Finding out what is causing the symptoms can help you get the right diagnosis and treatment, learn about community support resources, and plan for the future.