The Earliest Signs of Alzheimer's Everyone Over 50 Should Know
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. According to a recent study published in the Alzheimer's Association's journal Alzheimer's and Dementia, as many as 5 million Americans were living with the disease in 2014. Unfortunately, since most Alzheimer's patients are diagnosed after 60 years old, many of its early signs seem like normal age-related issues at first, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But, if left untreated, the condition's effects extend well beyond occasionally losing keys or forgetting someone's name. When it comes to Alzheimer's, every minute counts—so read on to discover the earliest signs of Alzheimer's that everyone over 50 should know. And for more ways to stay mentally fit as you age, check out these 20 Surprising Habits That Reduce Your Alzheimer's Risk.
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, however, that could be an early sign of Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association. And for more health problems that might arise in your golden years, check out these 40 Health Risks That Skyrocket After 40.
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. And while this symptom of the disease can be devastating, it's also one of the more common ones.
Becoming Totally Uninterested in Everything
One of the most common changes those with Alzheimer's go through is no longer being interested in things they used to love—or in anything, for that matter. An oft-cited 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society revealed that, while disinterest is a frequent symptom among those with Alzheimer's, it's also one of the most under-recognized signs.
Putting Things in Strange Places
Everyone forgets where they put things once in a while, and sometimes you're so tired that you might accidentally put the milk in the cupboard. For those with Alzheimer's, though, misplacing possessions and putting them in places that don't make sense happens with startling frequency, according to the Mayo Clinic. And for more sneaky ways that Alzheimer's can affect you, Here's the Shocking Link Between Daytime Sleepiness and Alzheimer's.
Exhibiting Poor Judgement
Many people get swindled by scammers, but those with Alzheimer's are particularly at risk. It's not uncommon for someone with the disease to show poor judgement on a regular basis, like giving a large portion of their money away to people they've never met.
Forgetting the Names of Everyday Objects
Have you ever found yourself struggling to retrieve the word for an everyday object? Now, imagine going through that constantly. According to the Mayo Clinic, those with Alzheimer's tend to find themselves unable to remember what simple things are called, be it a toaster or their toothbrush. And for more ailments that afflict those over 50, check out The 30 Most Common Injuries for Adults Over 50.
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. However, those in the throes of early Alzheimer's become more dependent on memory aids—like reminder notes—and often need their friends and family members to help them out.
Getting Lost in Familiar Places
There's no worse feeling than getting totally lost and not knowing how to get back home—and for those with Alzheimer's, that feeling may be an everyday occurrence. This often happens to Alzheimer's patients even in places that should seem familiar, like their own neighborhood.
Suddenly showing aggression by lashing out at family members is common among those with Alzheimer's, according to the National Institute on Aging. Unfortunately, it can also be hard to figure out what's behind the hostility—and occasionally, those fights will even become physical.
Becoming frequently agitated could be a major red flag when it comes to Alzheimer's. As the National Institute on Aging notes, all the restlessness and worried behavior that afflicts those with Alzheimer's can be a very hard thing to deal with, like not being able to dress themselves anymore. That level of frustration can lead to lashing out. And for more health advice to follow as you age, here are 50 Questions You Should Always Ask Your Doctor After 50.
Becoming Socially Withdrawn
Sure, everyone needs alone time. But when someone who used to love spending time around others suddenly becomes a lot more socially withdrawn, that could signal a brain change often associated with Alzheimer's.
Oftentimes, this shift is due to the person's awareness of the other cognitive deficits they're experiencing: They don't want to embarrass themselves by forgetting someone's name, for instance, and will therefore remove themselves from the social situation entirely.
Not Being Able to Keep Track of and Pay Bills
Every month, you know exactly which bills are due and when. However, in the early stages of Alzheimer's, working with numbers becomes difficult, making it hard to ensure payments are going out on time—even if you've been paying those same bills for years.
Misplacing Words While Talking
If someone is substituting unusual words into their sentences while they're talking or writing, that's a definite red flag as far as Alzheimer's is concerned. It's not uncommon for those with Alzheimer's to have trouble retrieving words or confusing similar-sounding ones.
Everyone gets confused once in a while, but those in the early stages of Alzheimer's experience the feeling more frequently than the average person. Whether it's being confused by where they are and unsure how they got there or losing track of time—be it seasons or dates—it's a behavior worth monitoring.
Having a Shortened Attention Span
As Alzheimer's spreads in the brain, one issue that might pop up 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, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Taking Longer to Complete Basic Tasks
As most people get older, they tend to slow down a little bit, both physically and mentally. However, if you're losing the ability to develop and follow plans and having trouble concentrating, meaning things take considerably longer than they used to, that could be an indication an Alzheimer's diagnosis isn't far off.
Becoming Suspicious or Distrustful of Others
Instead of counting on those closest to them like they did before, some individuals with early Alzheimer's become distrustful of those around them. Whether they suddenly believe they've become the victims of theft or that their partner is being unfaithful, the combination of confusion and memory loss can contribute to those false beliefs.
Sudden Mood Swings
Everyone has their ups and downs, but a sign of Alzheimer's you should never ignore is when someone has rapid emotional shifts for no reason, going from being happy to crying to being very angry in a short period of time, according to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation.
Not Being Able to Follow Recipes
Something as minor as whipping up a home-cooked meal can be a struggle for those in the early stages of Alzheimer's. If someone loses their ability to follow a recipe—even one they've made a thousand times before—that might be an indication of the cognitive changes that commonly occur in the early stages of the disease.
It's happened to all of us: We zone out during a conversation and find ourselves having little recollection of what transpired during the chat later on. But if someone is constantly forgetting discussions they had with people—and they're unable to remember them later, even after being reminded—that's a common early symptom of Alzheimer's.
Wearing Inappropriate Clothing
Those in the early stages of Alzheimer's often begin to exhibit a perplexing symptom: dressing inappropriately for the weather. Some individuals with the condition will wear minimal clothing when it's freezing cold out, while others will dress in heavy layers in the summer when the hot sun is beating down.
Not Being Able to Play Familiar Games
If someone is suddenly unable to play their favorite card game after years of doing so, that could be an early sign of Alzheimer's. Doing activities that involve multiple steps, like playing games, becomes increasingly hard for those with the disease.
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 without any recollection of saying them before, that may be an early indicator of Alzheimer's.
Finding It Hard to Make Phone Calls
Even if someone has had a standing phone call with a friend for years, or has always known the local pizza joint's number by heart, if they're experiencing the changes associated with early Alzheimer's, they may find themselves forgetting those numbers they once knew—or they may even have trouble dialing in the first place.
Engaging in Impulsive Behavior
As someone's Alzheimer's disease progresses, they'll often start showing impulsive behavior—and that can mean everything from undressing in public, to going on shopping sprees, to using vulgar language.
While everyone enjoys a Netflix binge from time to time, for those with Alzheimer's, passive behavior becomes a norm, according to University of California, San Francisco Health. Someone showing signs of the disease could sit in front of the screen all day, every day, for hours with absolutely no interest in doing anything they used to.
Becoming Unable to Multitask
In today's world, everyone is always doing a million things at once—we listen to podcasts while we drive, watch TV while we exercise, and have conversations while staring at our phones. For those with Alzheimer's, however, multitasking can be extremely difficult, even in situations they once handled with ease, like trying to have a conversation while making dinner. And for a look at the bright side of getting older, check out these 50 People Over 50 Who Are Shattering Stereotypes About Aging.
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