Do these signs mean your loved one has Alzheimer's?
What to look for to help detect dementia at its early stages.
Your mother can't remember where she parked her car. Your dad doesn't know when he last paid the rent. When is forgetfulness a normal part of aging and when is it a cause for serious concern?
Everyone experiences occasional memory lapses. But, when forgetfulness starts to impact a person's everyday life, it could be a sign of dementia or early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, affects more than 5 million people in the United States, or about 10% of people over the age of 65. It also affects about 200,000 people under age 65.
The most common early sign of Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association, is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Other signs include forgetting names and important dates, misplacing things and having to ask for the same information repeatedly. You may also start to see confusion with times and places, a lack of judgment or difficulty following directions. Social withdrawal and personality changes are additional signs that shouldn't be ignored. Signs of Alzheimer's may be obvious to family members or friends but not to the person experiencing the symptoms.
If you start to notice changes in mental ability or behavior, it's a good idea to discuss them with a doctor as soon as possible. Forgetfulness in and of itself does not mean a person has Alzheimer's but a doctor can determine if dementia is causing the memory loss or if there is another cause. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's, early detection can provide access to treatments that may delay progression of the disease, improve quality of life and allow your loved one to maintain independence longer.