30 Alzheimer’s Red Flags You Should Never Ignore
Learn the tells of a disease that spends years hiding in plain sight.
Alzheimer’s—the most common type of dementia—affects millions of Americans. Unfortunately it’s also one of the hardest diseases to deal with, both for the individual afflicted and those around them. Symptoms typically start showing up after 60 years old, and while some might seem like normal age-related issues at first, the surefire tells go far beyond occasionally losing keys or forgetting someone’s name. When it comes to Alzheimer’s, here are 30 red flags you should never, ever ignore.
Forgetting Important Dates and Events
Forgetting certain things is normal: Not many people remember what they ate last Thursday for dinner (and if you do, that’s seriously impressive). When someone is constantly forgetting important dates and events and not remembering them later, that could be an early sign of the disease, says the Alzheimer’s Association.
Becoming Totally Uninterested in Things
One of the most common changes those with Alzheimer’s go through is no longer being interested in things they used to be—or anything, for that matter. Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society revealed that, while disinterest is common, it’s also one of the most under-recognized symptoms.
Putting Things in Weird Places
Everyone forgets where they put their keys once in a while, and sometimes you’re so tired that, sure, you might accidentally put the milk in the cupboard. For those with Alzheimer’s, though, misplacing possessions and putting them in totally weird places that don’t make sense happens with startling frequency.
Everyone gets confused once and a while, but those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s experience the feeling much more than normal. Whether it’s being confused by where they are and are unsure how they got there or losing track of time—be it seasons or dates—it’s something the Alzheimer’s Association says to watch out for.
Sudden Mood Swings
Everyone has their ups and downs, but a sign of Alzheimer’s you should never ignore is when someone has rapid shifts for no reason, going from being happy to crying to being very angry in record-time, says the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
Forgetting the Names of Everyday Objects
Have you ever been lost for words and can’t seem to find the name for a common, everyday object? Imagine going through that constantly. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s common for those with Alzheimer’s to not be able to remember what simple things are called, whether it’s the toaster or their toothbrush.
Needing Constant Memory Aids
When your memory is in good working order, you can remember certain things without always having to write them down or be reminded. A common early sign of Alzheimer’s involves quite the opposite: Instead of being able to remember things on their own, individuals become more dependent on memory aids—like reminder notes—or their friends and family members to help them out.
Getting Lost in Familiar Places
There’s no worse feeling than getting totally lost and unsure of where you are. For those with Alzheimer’s, that’s a common occurrence. And the worst part is that it often happens in places that are familiar to them, even in, say, their own neighborhood—which they’ve lived in for years.
Not Being Able to Follow Recipes
Something as minor as whipping up a home-cooked meal could say a lot when it comes to Alzheimer’s. If someone loses their ability to follow a familiar recipe, that might be part of the mental changes that occur during the early stages of the disease.
Sometimes someone is straight-up not listening during a conversation and doesn’t have any recollection of it later on because of that. But if someone is constantly forgetting discussions they had with people—and are unable to remember them later, even after being reminded—that’s a common symptom of Alzheimer’s.
Not Being Able to Keep Track of and Pay Bills
Every month, you know exactly which bills are due and you’re all ready to pay them. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, working with numbers becomes difficult, making it really hard to keep track of and pay those bills they’ve easily handled themselves for years.
Everything Takes Longer
Over the years, things start to slow down a little—but losing the ability to develop and follow plans and having trouble concentrating, making things take considerably longer than they used to, could be a red flag of Alzheimer’s.
One thing that comes hand-in-hand with losing interest is also losing motivation. When someone who used to have a desire to do something completely loses that desire, research says it might not be a normal life thing—it might be a behavioral change associated with Alzheimer’s.
Misplacing Words While Talking
If someone is substituting unusual words into their sentences while they’re talking or writing, it could be a red flag of Alzheimer’s: it’s not uncommon to misplace or totally forget certain words in their everyday language.
Having a Shortened Attention Span
As Alzheimer’s spreads in the brain, one issue that might pop up in individuals suffering from the disease is a shortened attention span. Someone who used to be able to sit and have a full conversation might no longer be able to focus on just one thing, says the NIH.
Forgetting the Names of Friends and Family Members
One of the most crushing things those with Alzheimer’s go through is forgetting the names of those around them, whether it’s their close family members or longtime friends. It can be devastating, but it’s common.
Becoming Suspicious or Distrustful of Others
Instead of counting on those closest to them like they have throughout their entire lives, those with Alzheimer’s become very distrustful of everyone. Whether it’s theft, infidelity, or other hurtful accusations, the Alzheimer’s Association says their confusion and memory loss can contribute to those false beliefs.
Wearing Inappropriate Clothing
Showing a little too much skin is one thing, but those with Alzheimer’s often wear the completely wrong things at the wrong times, like very minimal clothing when it’s freezing cold out in the middle of the winter or multiple heavy layers in the summer when the hot sun is beaming down.
Not Being Able to Play a Familiar Game
If someone is suddenly totally unable to play their favorite card game after years of doing so, it could be a sign of Alzheimer’s. According to the Mayo Clinic, doing activities that involve steps can become increasingly hard—and that could eventually lead into being unable to do everyday things like get dressed.
Having Poor Judgement
Getting tricked by fake telemarketers happens all the time—and individuals who are especially at-risk are those with Alzheimer’s. It’s not uncommon for someone with the disease to show poor judgement on a regular basis, whether that’s by giving a large portion of their money away to scammers or another decision along those same lines, says the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
Becoming Socially Withdrawn
Sure, everyone needs alone time. When someone who used to love spending time around others suddenly becomes a lot more socially withdrawn, it could signal a brain change often associated with Alzheimer’s. And the reason for that? Oftentimes, it’s due to their other mental changes: they don’t want to embarrass themselves by forgetting someone’s name, not recognizing someone they know, or just feeling overall ashamed of what they’re going through.
Forgetting You’ve Already Said Something
Once in a while you have to repeat something to make sure someone hears it. But if an individual is constantly repeating statements or questions with no idea it’s not the first time they’ve said it, that’s a common red flag to be aware of, says the Mayo Clinic.
Becoming Very Aggressive
Suddenly showing aggression by lashing out at family members is a common occurrence in those with Alzheimer’s, says the National Institute on Aging (NIH). Unfortunately, it can also be hard to figure out what’s behind the hostility and can even become physical if they attempt to hurt someone.
Finding It Hard to Make Phone Calls
Calling up friends on the phone is something people have done since they were teenagers. One common red flag in Alzheimer’s is when an individual becomes unable to do the simple task that was once very easy and mindless for them because they can’t process the steps involved, says the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
Becoming Very Passive
Binge-watching a TV marathon is just about everyone’s favorite way to unwind. According to UCSF Health, in those with Alzheimer’s, that passive behavior becomes a norm: they could sit in front of the screen all day, every day, for hours with absolutely no interest in doing anything they used to.
Becoming Easily Upset
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, someone’s mood can start to shift. One sign that something might be up? If they become easily upset when they never used to, whether that’s at work, at home—anywhere. Obviously getting irritated on occasion is normal for anyone, but when it happens often, it’s something to look out for.
Becoming frequently agitated could be a major red flag in Alzheimer’s. According to the NIH, all that restlessness and worried behavior that makes it nearly impossible to calm down can be a very hard thing to deal with, and it tends to happen for a reason, like not being able to dress themselves anymore.
Asking for the Same Things Over and Over
Forgetting important events isn’t the only memory issue that could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. In the beginning stages, it’s also not uncommon to experience memory issues that make day-to-day life really difficult, like always having to ask for the same information over and over.
Becoming Unable to Multitask
In today’s world, everyone is always doing a million things at once. For those with Alzheimer’s, multitasking can be really difficult, whether that’s keeping up with their finances or trying to have a conversation while making dinner.
Showing Impulsive Behavior
As someone’s Alzheimer’s disease progresses, they’ll often start showing impulsive behavior—and oftentimes, that can mean everything from undressing in public or using very vulgar language, says the NIH.