Which aisle stocks the peanut butter? Where is the project file? What’s the name of that actor in the movie we saw last week? These are all questions that can unhinge our memory at times. A little memory blip is nothing to worry about. We all have them now and then. But some occurrences could signal a more serious memory problem. Although aging ups the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the condition isn’t a normal part of aging. So how do you know what’s normal behavior and what’s not? Here are some red flags to watch out for.

 

A Disruption of Daily Life – You just met her but already can’t recall her name. You know you made plans for Sunday but can’t seem to remember what they are. It’s normal to forget names and dates every now and then. But regularly forgetting these and other, more important details could signal a problem. Forgetting recently learned information is common for people with AD.

Disorientation – People with AD may be puzzled by time and place. They might confuse the past and present or lose track of time or dates. They may become lost in their own neighborhood, forgetting where they are and how they got there.

A Snag in Speech – You’ve probably had a word on the tip of your tongue but couldn’t come up with it. People with AD also may have trouble finding the right word but might halt a conversation completely and not know how to carry on, or may repeat themselves. They might invent words or stop talking altogether to prevent slipups.

Problems solving problems – Trouble understanding numbers or following steps is another sign of AD. This can make it difficult to concentrate, pay the bills, do simple math, or even follow a family recipe the person has known for years.

Losing Things – Where’d I put my keys? You’ve likely asked yourself the same question before. But for people with AD, it can be difficult to remember where things are or to retrace steps to find lost items. What’s more, Alzheimer’s can cause people to misplace items by putting them in illogical places, like a placing a toothbrush in the refrigerator.

Trouble With Tasks – Everyday tasks that were once easy to do may become big challenges. Even daily grooming, dressing oneself, and eating can be a struggle

Poor decision-making – Making consistent or frequent bad decisions or not making decisions at all could signal AD. Bad judgment with money, like giving money to strangers, could be another warning.

Loss of initiative – Lost energy, motivation, or spark for life is another indication of AD. The person may not participate in usual activities like sports, hobbies, or even work. He or she may become socially withdrawn.

Resisting Change – We all may be set in our own ways at times, but a person with AD may be unwelcome to changes in routine or uncomfortable with new people or places.

Significant Swings in Mood or Personality – AD patients may change from calm to sadness to anger quickly and for no apparent reason. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, or fearful.

 

Early detection matters. Many other neurologic conditions can mimic the problems encountered with AD, and many are treatable. Tell your doctor if you are experiencing challenges with everyday activities. Recognizing the warning signs of Alzheimer’s early allows extra time to plan for necessary treatment and care.