If you have a history of Alzheimer's Disease in your family, you are likely more vigilant than the average person in looking out for symptoms of the disease. True, Alzheimer's is a disease that comes with a genetic predisposition but even without a history of the disease in the family, you should be mindful that this is a disease that can easily affect you. In this article, we will highlight some of the early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease.
Warning sign 1: Memory loss
One of the hallmark signs of Alzheimer's disease would be noticeable gaps in your memory. This is something much more dramatic than forgetting a name or a random factoid. Typically, recent memories will be the first to be affected as the brain begins to deteriorate more and more rapidly but as this progresses, even more permanent memories start to be affected. This can include things like forgetting familiar faces, important dates, or even your home address. This can be something that is hard to differentiate for doctors because mild forgetfulness is also a sign of normal aging. The type of memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease, even in the early stages of the disease, will be much more noticeable, however.
Warning sign 2: An inability to do complex tasks
As the brain becomes more and more affected by plaques that accumulate in the brain, complex thinking will also start to become noticeably impacted. This includes things like organization, planning out your day or even performing things that require multiple steps. This could be something like following a cooking recipe. As you can already imagine, this can become quite frustrating for an individual who may have Alzheimer's disease. You may write it off as simply a manifestation of being tired, but it is actually something much more sinister.
Warning sign 3: A change in your personality
Another early sign that is likely for Alzheimer's disease would be a change in your personality. This personality change is due to the deterioration of the frontal lobe of the brain. This portion of the brain is responsible for controlling your behavior and personality. As the brain deteriorates, it is more likely for you to "not feel like yourself". You may find that you are more direct with loved ones and more short-tempered or angrier compared to what you once were. This is something that your partner or your close family may notice first.
Warning sign 4: A decline in your personal hygiene
As your frontal lobe deteriorates, another thing that will likely change is your regard for your personal hygiene. You stop caring about how you look and what others think of you. As a result, you may go days without showering, shaving, or changing your clothes. Your household chores are also likely to suffer so the pile of dirty clothes and dishes can begin to accumulate. This is one of the signs that will likely be noticed by family members.
Warning sign 5: Becoming more socially isolated
This is something that can manifest as a result of a combination of all these other early warning signs. A person with the early stages of Alzheimer's may start to become embarrassed at the decline in their abilities and start to avoid potential encounters with friends and family. This will make it also harder for others to notice these new-onset behaviors so it is a two-edged sword in this circumstance. This can easily propel the patient into a state of depression. As the disease progresses, it is something that you will be battling against during the whole disease course so it is important that friends and family are aware of this and try to include a patient in as many activities and conversations as often as possible.
Warning sign 6: Speech difficulties
Patients with Alzheimer's will continuously struggle to build proper sentences. This is also one of the earlier signs of the disease that will manifest. This can be partially due to the plaques that can start to accumulate in the temporal lobe; the portion of the brain responsible for speech. Long sentences can be almost impossible even in the earlier stages of Alzheimer's, so watch out for a partner using shorter or choppy phrases in order to try to compensate for their speech decline. A patient with Alzheimer's disease will also be likely frustrated with their inability to speak normally and may not be willing to have speech therapy in order to alleviate these symptoms.
Warning sign 7: Visual-spatial difficulty
This is a more pronounced form of the inability to perform complex tasks. What is meant by this type of decline would be a difficulty judging distances. This can make once simple tasks like driving or climbing up the stairs more dangerous and stressful. It can represent a challenge for not only the patient but the family as well, because a patient with Alzheimer's could have a few small fender-benders before the extent of the limitations is known. It may also be hard to try to stop the person from walking without a walking aid or giving up their keys to the car. Falls are also possible at this stage and it can make it even more challenging to treat.
Warning sign 8: Misplacing items frequently
The last warning sign that I will highlight will be the frequency of misplacing items. It is something that can be annoying for the patient and their loved ones. Common items like house keys, wallets, or phones can go missing because of the decline in short-term memory. A good strategy to try to limit these events would be to place alarms or tracers on these items so you can use audio alarms to help find the item. Everyone is likely to misplace their wallet at one time or another, but when it comes to Alzheimer's disease, this will become a daily occurrence so it can significantly influence the quality of life.