by Susanne Mitschke
Although Alzheimer's or any form of dementia can only be diagnosed by a doctor and after a complete medical assessment, some early warning signs shouldn't be overlooked. Early detection does matter, and if you notice any or more of these signs in yourself or your loved one, please see a doctor.
1. Trouble with memory
Forgetfulness and problems with memory don't automatically point to dementia. They can be normal parts of aging and might also happen due to fatigue. It might be an early sign of dementia if it happens repeatedly or even affects everyday life. The development is subtle, and the person concerned often remembers details from years ago but struggles with short time memory.
Things that fall into this category:
- repeatedly forgetting important dates and events
- repeatedly forgetting where you left items
- struggling to remember why you entered a particular room
- asking for the same information over and over again
2. Personality & mood changes
Another early sign of dementia is if someone becomes more and more moody, depressed or withdrawn. The person might not notice the change in themselves but family or friends usually will. The personality could change where someone who was shy before is suddenly very outgoing. Again, if the individual's behaviour is out of the ordinary repeatedly, this might be a warning sign.
3. Difficulties with planning & solving problems
Dementia can affect one's ability to follow a plan or complete familiar tasks. It might take much longer to do things than it did before and learning new routines becomes an impossible undertaking.
4. Confusion with time or place
People in the early stages of dementia sometimes already struggle with finding their way home or might not recognise previously familiar landmarks anymore. Losing track of dates, seasons or passages of time could also indicate a more serious problem than just age-related change.
5. Struggle to communicate thoughts
People affected by this early symptom struggle to find a particular word and start explaining around it. They might have problems with following and joining conversations and take longer to express themselves.
6. Decreased or poor judgement
Poor judgment when spending money or choosing everyday clothing is another sign that shouldn't be ignored.
7. Withdrawal from social activities or work
A person with dementia will lose interest in hobbies and will not find spending time with family and friends enjoyable anymore. That usually is the case because they can't properly follow what's going on.
8. Difficulties to adapt to change
People with dementia like to stick to routines and fear new experiences or situations because they might not follow what's going on. They are scared of not recognising people or not being able to hold up a conversation.
9. Struggle to judge distances or colour contrasts
Driving a car gets challenging for people with dementia as they might not be able to perceive spatial relationships that they need to park and properly navigate the vehicle. Colours are often difficult to differentiate except if they are very bright.
A person with dementia will sometimes put things in unusual places or forget someone they have met before. They will regularly lose their train of thought and will be unable to follow storylines.
Forgetting things and experiencing memory loss does not automatically point towards dementia or Alzheimers. These symptoms might be normal signs of aging but definitely, shouldn't be overlooked. A doctor should be consulted if multiple symptoms apply and they are not getting better. If you experience any of the points above yourself or know someone who does, please do take them seriously. A neurologist might be able to give you a piece of mind or advice about the necessary support in case of a diagnosis.