More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today, with another person developing the disease every 68 seconds. By 2050, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple. Personally, I have lost my father, my aunt and three of my grandparents to this dreaded disease.
As if those numbers weren’t staggering enough, consider this: Alzheimer’s disease is the only cause of death among the top 10 (it’s currently ranked No. 6) in the United States that can’t be prevented or cured.
Recognizing symptoms early is crucial because medication to control symptoms is most effective in the early stages of the disease and early diagnosis allows the individual and his or her family members to plan for the future.
1. Memory loss
This is the most common symptom. Do you easily forget information you just learned? Do you lose track of important dates, names, and events? Do you forget big things even happened? Do you ask for the same information over and over? Do you rely heavily on memory aids like Post-it notes or reminders on your smartphone?
2. Trouble planning and problem solving
Do you have trouble making plans and sticking to them? Is it tricky to follow a recipe, even one you’ve used many times? Is it hard to concentrate on detailed tasks, especially if they involve numbers? For example, can you keep track of your bills and balance your checkbook?
3. Daily tasks are a challenge
Even familiar things can become hard. Do you have trouble driving to a location you go to often? Can you complete an ordinary task at work? Do you forget the rules of your favorite game?
4. Times and places are confusing
Can you fully grasp something that’s not happening right now? Are you disoriented? Do you get lost easily? Do you forget where you are? Do you remember how you got there?
5. Changes in vision
Is it harder to read the words on the page? Do you have trouble judging distance? Can you tell colors apart? This is important because it can affect your driving.
6. Words and conversations are frustrating
Vocabulary becomes hard. Can you find the right word you’re looking for? Or do you call things by the wrong name?
Conversations can be a struggle. Do you avoid joining in? Are you able to follow along? Do you suddenly stop in the middle of a discussion because you don’t know what to say? Do you keep repeating yourself?
7. You lose things
Everyone misplaces things from time to time, but can you retrace your steps to find them again? Do you put things in unusual places, like your watch in the refrigerator? Do you accuse people of taking things?
8. Lapse in judgment
Have you made poor decisions lately? Do you make mistakes with money, like giving it away when you normally wouldn’t?
Are you showering as often? Do you take less care of yourself? Do you dress for the wrong weather?
9. Social withdrawal
Are you scaling back on projects at work? Are you less involved with your favorite hobbies? Do you lack motivation? Do you find yourself watching television or sleeping more than usual?
10. Mood changes
Do you get upset more easily? Do you feel depressed, scared, or anxious? Are you suspicious of people?