10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term for a decline in cognitive (thinking and memory) skills.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, if you observe any of the 10 warning signs of dementia discussed below, you should contact your doctor. You should consider doing so because:

This article explores the signs of Alzheimer's disease to look out for. It also examines the difference between this type of dementia and typical age-related changes.

1

Memory Loss

Two brain slices with and without Alzheimer's

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The most common warning sign is memory loss that interferes with daily life. This includes:

  • Difficulty remembering recent events or information
  • Increased need for written notes to recall information
  • Increased reliance on family members
  • Repeated requests for the same information

What it's not: Occasionally forgetting something like where you placed the car keys.

While memory loss may be what comes to mind when thinking of Alzheimer's disease, there are other signs to look out for as well.

2

Withdrawal From Usual Activities

Woman sitting on couch with serious expression

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Apathy, or a lack of interest, and withdrawal from people and activities can be signs of early dementia.

Examples include no longer following a favorite sports team, not wanting to spend time with treasured grandchildren, giving up a favorite hobby, and skipping get-togethers with good friends.

What it's not: Needing a longer break between activities or sometimes feeling overwhelmed.

3

Confusion With Time or Place

Man standing in a maze

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With Alzheimer's disease, disorientation is a common symptom. It may include:

  • Not knowing what season or year it is
  • Not knowing your location
  • Not understanding why you're in a certain location

As Alzheimer's progresses, some may believe they are younger than they really are because of an unawareness of time passing.

What it's not: Wondering what the date is and checking the calendar.

4

Visual-Spatial Difficulties

Woman helping a man up the stairs

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Visual-spatial changes are another warning sign of dementia. These may include:

  • Difficulty judging distances correctly
  • Having a hard time recognizing familiar faces or objects
  • Finding it challenging to interpret images

Activities like using the stairs, climbing into a bathtub, finding your way home, or reading a book may become more difficult.

What it's not: Gradual vision loss due to macular degeneration or cataracts.

5

Decrease in Written or Verbal Communication

Man at desk with several crumpled up papers

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Some changes in communication that are major warning signs of dementia include:

  • Finding it hard to come up with the right word
  • Difficulty writing your thoughts down clearly
  • Finding it difficult to understand others
  • Having a hard time expressing yourself

What it's not: Occasional difficulty finding the right word.

6

Challenges With Problem-Solving and Planning

Woman with furrowed brow looking at checkbook
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With dementia, abilities that involve planning, flexible thinking, control, memory, and organization tend to decline. These abilities are known as executive functions. A decline in executive functioning may look like:

  • Difficulty balancing your checkbook and getting the bills paid on time
  • Finding cooking recipes hard to follow even if you've made them before
  • Taking longer to make coffee in the morning

If you notice these changes in yourself or someone you love, contact your physician for an assessment.

What it's not: One or two mistakes in your math calculations.

7

Personality and Mood Changes

Man peering through blinds with serious expression

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Has your normally easygoing family member become irritable and fearful lately? Or, did they have an overreaction when something minor changed in their routine?

A shift in mood and behavior over the last several months is a warning sign that the brain may be going through some changes. If this is the case, consider getting an evaluation for dementia.

What it's not: Becoming a little more set in your ways and disliking change.

8

Misplacing Items Frequently

Smart Phone In Fridge
Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

With dementia, keeping track of things may be incredibly difficult. Not only might things be misplaced, but the process of looking for the item can end in frustration and confusion.

What it's not: Losing your keys and later remembering you set them down on the piano.

9

Decline in Judgment

Woman on the phone looking at her credit card

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If you've noticed a pattern of poor judgment lately in your loved one, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a physician. Examples of poor judgment may include:

  • Repeatedly getting tricked by phone scams and giving money away
  • Not dressing appropriately for the weather
  • Driving in an unsafe way

What it's not: The occasional questionable decision.

10

Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks

Piece of toast on the disc tray of a computer

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Getting lost on your way home from the grocery store or difficultly doing the job you've had for 20 years are warning signs of Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia.

It's important to recognize that this doesn't refer to learning something new. Instead, this is a change in the ability to do something you've always been able to do until now.

What it's not: Difficulty using the new television remote control.

11

Summary

These are 10 major warning signs of Alzheimer's disease. Some include memory loss, apathy, confusion with time and place, poor judgment, and a decline in planning and organizing.

If you think you or a loved one are showing signs of Alzheimer's disease, it's important to speak with a doctor.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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