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Knowing the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease Can Result in Early Detection

A change in mood and personality is just one of the signs of Alzheimer's disease. It may be difficult to know the difference between age-related changes and the first signs of Alzheimer's.  As part of its education effort, the Alzheimer's Association has worked with a wide range group of experts to update its 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's to meet the growing need for education, awareness and support.  Every 70 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's disease. There are currently more than 5.3 million individuals and their families living with Alzheimer's across the U.S., 350,000 in the state of New Jersey alone. Do you Know the Signs?

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's:

Memory changes that disrupt daily life

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What's typical? (not an indication of Alzheimer's)  Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

Challenges in planning or solving problems

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What's typical? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure

People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What's typical? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

Confusion with time or place

People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What's typical?  Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.

What's typical? Vision changes related to cataracts.

New problems with words in speaking or writing

People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock").

What's typical? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What's typical? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

Decreased or poor judgment

People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What's typical? Making a bad decision once in a while.

Withdrawal from work or social activities

A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What's typical? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

Changes in mood and personality

The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
What's typical? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

These warning signs are the cornerstone of Know the Signs:  Early Detection Matters, the Alzheimer's Association's national campaign.  The signs are a key tool in promoting recognition of common changes that may facilitate early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or another dementia.  This information affords individuals the best opportunities for treatment, support and planning for the future. 

With early detection, you can get the maximum benefits available from treatments. Individuals can start earlier to explore treatments that may help provide some relief of symptoms and help them to maintain some level of independence longer.

Early detection also can mean more time to plan for the future. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's allows you to take part in decisions about care, transportation, living options, financial and legal matters.

It also allows you to build your support network.  Some Alzheimer's support organizations offer free services like a 24-hour helpline through which individuals with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia and their families can access many other supportive services offered, including an early stage support program.
In 1983 fewer than 2 million Americans had the disease; today, the number of individuals with Alzheimer's has soared to as many as 5.3 million , and is expected to grow to 16 million by 2050 unless something is done to slow or stop this devastating disease.

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