8 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's You Should Know, Doctors Say
Keep an eye out for these early hints of cognitive decline for yourself and your loved ones.
In a recent episode of 60 Minutes on Oct. 3, legendary crooner Tony Bennett and his wife Susan Benedetto sat down with Anderson Cooper to discuss the 95-year-old singer's life with Alzheimer's disease, People magazine reports.
Bennett, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2017 and gave his final performances on stage in August of this year with two shows at New York's Radio City Music Hall, apparently is unaware he has the condition, Benedetto told Cooper.
"He recognizes me, thank goodness, his children, you know we are blessed in a lot of ways," Benedetto said. "He's very sweet. He doesn't know he has it," she added, referring to the health condition. Despite that fact, Bennett was able to perform a song without the aid of printed lyrics and sheet music in front of him. A feat the doctor who diagnosed Bennett used to explain the complexities of the brain and how it is affected by Alzheimer's.
"That's an area of the brain that's just so an innately hardwired part of his brain," Gaytari Devi, MD, said in the 60 Minutes interview. "And it's also an area of his brain that gives them real meaning and purpose in his life, and it's imbued with emotion."
Devi added, "I mean that's the other thing about music that sets it apart, is that it is a part of the brain that's very emotional. Music is housed in different parts of the brain, including parts of the brain that deal with emotion, and therefore, it's easy to be moved by it when you hear it."
Bennett is one of approximately 6.2 million Americans over age 65 who are currently battling Alzheimer's, the most common cause of dementia, the Alzheimer's Association reports. While, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, the time between the average dementia diagnosis, institutionalization, and death are just 3.9 and 5 years, respectively, experts say that early diagnosis is the best way to improve patient prognoses and quality of life. Read on to discover the surprising signs of Alzheimer's disease you can't afford to miss.
While everyone forgets to send a check or schedule a payment once in a while, if financial forgetfulness becomes a persistent problem for you, you might want to check in with your doctor. According to a 2020 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, a pattern of missed payments may be a sign of dementia, even if you haven't been diagnosed yet. In fact, among the 81,000 adults followed over a 20-year study period, individuals with Alzheimer's frequently skipped payments up to six years prior to being diagnosed with the condition.
Diminished sense of smell
If you notice your ability to smell dwindling, you should let your doctor know. According to the National Institute on Aging, losing your sense of smell can be a symptom of Alzheimer's.
Forgetting important dates and events
It's one thing to forget your grocery list at home, but if you find yourself frequently forgetting important dates like your children's birthdays or the appointment you scheduled, that could be a cause for concern, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Trouble solving basic problems
People with Alzheimer's struggle to problem-solve simple issues that would be easy for another person to resolve, according to the Columbia University Department of Neurology.
Forgetting the names of everyday objects
If you find yourself stumped on what you call a toothbrush or cup, you should let someone know. According to the Mayo Clinic, this forgetfulness could be related to Alzheimer's.
Trouble with the passage of time
People who don't have Alzheimer's have no problem discerning between a few minutes and a few hours, but those with the illness can struggle with the passage of time. "Five minutes can seem like five hours for someone with [Alzheimer's disease]," Lisa P. Gwyther, MSW, an associate professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, told CBS News. "So a husband may think his wife has been gone for hours or even weeks, even if it's just been a few minutes, or he might tell his grandchild that he hasn't seen him in five years, even though he just saw him yesterday."
The sudden onset of aggression is common among people with Alzheimer's, according to the National Institute on Aging.
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Sleep problems can be a result of many different things—including Alzheimer's. "There's an association between Alzheimer's and sleep disturbances," Jose Colon, MD, a sleep medicine doctor, told Lee Health. "You can't make an early diagnosis of Alzheimer's based on sleep patterns, but when someone has disruptive sleep patterns, you want to keep an eye on that."