Alzheimer's Symptoms And Warning Signs

Updated March 21, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Normal aging brings with it many changes and some challenges. Declines in memory and daily functioning are typical. However, some seniors show more significant changes in memory and functioning, and many start to worry that the changes they are experiencing could, in fact, be signs of dementia or Alzheimer's Disease. It can be hard to distinguish what may be normal aging versus cause for concern, and when it might be appropriate to seek help. Knowing alzheimers facts and understanding some common symptoms of Alzheimer’s may help you decide when to get a medical professional’s support.  

Alzheimer’s Disease

What is Alzheimers diseaseAlzheimer’s Disease is a specific type of dementia, as well as the most common kind. It starts slowly, affecting one’s cognitive function, and worsens over time. Eventually, the individual has trouble carrying out everyday tasks and needs a caregiver in order to get their basic needs met. Below are various signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease to watch for as you and your loved ones grow older. 

Memory Loss That Starts To Disrupt Your Life

As people age, it is inevitable that there will be some decline in memory. Typical age-rated memory and cognitive changes include sometimes forgetting information and then remembering it later. Alzheimer's may be suspected when there are more frequent and severe incidents of memory loss, including forgetting information that was recently learned. Someone developing early Alzheimer's symptoms may have a difficult time remembering even important information, such as dates or significant events, and might need to have the information repeated time and again.

Difficulty With Planning Or Solving Problems

Anyone can face challenges when making plans or solving problems. Some are naturally more inclined to possess these abilities, while others have always faced some challenges. There are also general age-related changes that occur in these areas due to changes in the brain. However, more significant declines in the ability to develop and follow through with a plan could suggest Alzheimer's disease. For example, someone in the early stages of the disease may have a difficult time following a recipe or managing bills. It may also be more difficult to concentrate, and it may take longer to complete new tasks than it typically would have.

Challenges With Familiar Tasks At Home Or Work

Most people become familiar with and adept at completing their routine tasks at home and work. They are usually able to do such tasks without thinking much about them. A typical age-related change may be showing some decline in such abilities. At the least, it can be increasingly difficult for older adults to adjust to anything that affects their routines. For example, many older individuals find it hard to understand and adapt to new technology. However, someone developing early signs of Alzheimer's disease may find it increasingly challenging to complete their daily tasks, which often includes forgetting familiar routes.

Being Confused About Time Or Place

Anyone can have occasional confusion about what day or time it is. Sometimes people lose track of where they are or where they’re supposed to be if they are not particularly well-organized. As people age, this type of confusion may occur more often. However, in typical situations, even during aging, the individual will eventually figure it out. Those living with Alzheimer's disease may experience frequent confusion about dates and even seasons. They may lose track of the passage of time and struggle to understand things that are not happening currently or immediately.

Trouble With Visual Images And Spatial Relationships

Age brings with it certain changes in vision and eyesight that can affect and reduce visual acuity. At times, these changes can be severe if the older adult has cataracts, glaucoma, or another eye condition, but these can often be managed with eyeglasses or other medical interventions. Those with Alzheimer's might find that the disease negatively affects their visual abilities, causing difficulties in judging distances and distinguishing colors or contrasts. This can make driving dangerous and increase the person's risk of injury due to falls or running into items while walking.

Increased Problems With Choosing Words During Speaking Or Writing

Anyone can have occasional difficulty remembering the word they want to use or misspeak while talking. The same can be true of writing. As people age, these incidents normally increase. However, those with early symptoms of Alzheimer's will have more significant problems with words. Among the first signs of Alzheimer's is great difficulty following along with or joining a conversation. They may lose track of what they were saying, have a hard time recalling words, and may even call things by an entirely wrong name.

Misplacing Items Or Leaving Them In Odd Places

Anyone can forget where they have placed some item, whether it is their keys, a bill, or some important paperwork. Most people will experience such a situation at least once in their life. As people age, these incidents naturally become more frequent, due to decreases in memory functioning. However, during normal aging, most people will later remember where they left the item. Those with early signs of Alzheimer's disease may not be able to remember where they put the item at all. They may also leave items in unusual places, such as putting a toiletry in the refrigerator.

Losing The Ability To Retrace Steps

The average person later finds an item they misplaced by retracing their steps. This involves the individual thinking about where they were that day with the item and then going to check those places for it. Something similar happens when someone gets lost; they retrace their steps to at least get back to where they started. In normal aging, there will be some decline in these abilities. In those with Alzheimer's disease, the ability to retrace steps decreases, which puts them at greater risk of becoming lost.

Poor Judgment Or Decision Making

Some people naturally struggle with decision-making, particularly if they have poor judgment. However, if someone has always had sound judgment and reasonable decision-making abilities, and those suddenly start to decline, then it could be a sign of Alzheimer's disease. Decreases in judgment and decision-making abilities are partially due to reductions in memory. However, these symptoms are also part of the disorder as it causes thinking in general to decline.

Being Different From Their Usual Self

Personality is usually well-established by childhood, and especially by the teenage years. Although one’s personality may continue to evolve during adulthood, the changes are usually very minor. Even then, most changes this late in life are due to significant events such as trauma or loss. As people age, there may be reductions in the traits a person already has. For example, someone who was always very dominant may become slightly less so. Someone with Alzheimer's disease, especially in the late stages, may show significant personality changes and may seem very unlike themselves.

Withdrawal From Social Interaction And Activities

Some people are naturally more social than others, and anyone can become more withdrawn in response to life challenges, such as job loss, health problems, or the end of a relationship. Those with Alzheimer's often become less social because of the changes in their memory and cognitive functioning. They may struggle so much in social settings that they would prefer not to try to interact with others. They may also become less interested in activities they once enjoyed because they find them more challenging and perhaps less enjoyable as a result.

Changes In Mood With Depression And Anxiety

When someone develops health problems, they are more at risk of also experiencing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. These are often responses to the challenges of dealing with such serious life changes. People with Alzheimer's are no different as the disease can be upsetting and stressful. As people's memory and functioning decrease, they may become depressed, anxious, and worried about what additional changes and declines they will experience.

Online Counseling With BetterHelp

If you have concerns about a family or a friend and perhaps are in a caregiving role, therapeutic support can be beneficial Given the challenges of having Alzheimer's symptoms and the difficulties that come with being a caregiver, many choose to seek therapy through online platforms. You can connect with a licensed counselor through BetterHelp whenever you feel ready.

Caregivers often have a lot on their plate. There’s not always a lot of leftover time for one to take care of themselves, though doing so is still essential. Online therapy can save time and make it easier to find a therapist. You can conveniently get the support you need from the safety and comfort of your home, all without having to leave your loved one alone. 

The Efficacy Of Online Counseling

Online counseling can be beneficial for those affected in some way by Alzheimer’s Disease. One study assessed the effectiveness of computer and telephone-delivered therapy for caregivers of those living with dementia. Researchers found that caregivers experienced improved quality of life, lower burdensome feelings, and reduced symptoms of depression. They concluded that “interventions delivered via telephone and computer have the potential to augment existing dementia care.” 

The Takeaway

Normal aging brings with it changes and declines in memory. However, if you have noticed early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease, seek medical and psychological evaluation. Suspecting a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, or receiving confirmation that you have this disorder, can be difficult. Many older adults with Alzheimer's seek out therapeutic support from trained online counselors. These professionals can help Alzheimer's patients learn to adapt and maintain their quality of life for as long as possible. Therapists can also support the emotional changes that go along with these cognitive changes and offer guidance to caregivers in need. 

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