You misplaced your keys again and you forgot why you walked into the kitchen. These could be early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease but it’s more likely you’re distracted, fatigued, or stressed.
How can you tell the difference between everyday forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s disease? Well, we all forget things from time to time. It’s part of being human. And maybe we’re not as good at multi-tasking as we like to think we are.
Heidi Johnson, MA, MFT Intern, of Lakeside Counseling, says normal forgetfulness has little impact on your daily life, but Alzheimer’s disease interferes with daily activities due to cognitive impairment. She provides these examples:
Forgetfulness: You may forget a pot of boiling eggs, the name of a movie, or where you parked the car, but you can still function independently and safely.
Alzheimer’s: You may have frequent kitchen fires because you have no recollection that the stove or burners were left on. You might try to leave home in only a nightgown and slippers because you don’t realize it’s only 20 degrees outside.
Forgetfulness: You can tell your friends and family you’re starting to have moments of forgetting names of people or things.
Alzheimer’s: You can’t tell friends or family of memory deficits because you don’t even know there is a problem.
Forgetfulness: You may have to take a few minutes to recall directions, but if you turn down a wrong street you know that you will eventually find your way.
Alzheimers: You may cause accidents while driving because you don’t realize you’re driving on the wrong side of the street or driving through a red light. You may no longer realize that red means stop.
Forgetfulness: You may forget words but we can still hold a conversation.
Alzheimer’s: In conversations you may forget, misuse, or garble words. You may repeat stories and phrases in the same conversation because you don’t know you’ve already said that.
Ryan McEniff, owner of Minute Women Home Care, works with dementia patients. He told Care2 another red flag for Alzheimer’s disease is when it becomes difficult for someone to handle money. For example, they can’t tell the difference between a dollar bill and a ten dollar bill.
Another sign would be someone who always kept their home and appearance tidy, but now their home is sloppy and they look unkempt, said McEniff.
Tara Reed‘s dad was a college professor who taught astronomy. About 8-10 years ago, his family began to notice odd behavior. The man with the amazing memory started to rely on his wife to remind him of words and names, and to fill in the gaps of stories he had known so well.
“He then began to tell us (his family) stories as if we had never heard them before, things we all knew and many things we had experienced together,” she told Care2. “He would tell us, at great length, about his achievements as a teacher or trips he had taken, like we had just met him. Looking back now, we think he was doing everything he could to remember. That in the telling of his story, it was helping him hold onto himself.”
Reed said people ask her if she saw it coming and what signs they should look for. Her neurologist told her that “when you’ve met one person with Alzheimer’s, you’ve met one person with Alzheimer’s — everyone’s path and story will be a little different.”
There are some general clues that you may be dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association lists these 10 warning signs:
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure.
4. Confusion with time or place.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
8. Decreased or poor judgement.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
10. Changes in mood or personality.
It’s important to note that memory loss doesn’t necessarily mean Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, some other causes of memory loss include:
- certain medications
- head injury
- depression or other mental health disorders
- vitamin B-12 deficiency
- brain tumors
Some causes of memory loss are reversible, so it’s important to visit your doctor as soon as possible. For more information, the Alzheimer’s Association provides this free brochure: If You Have Alzheimer’s Disease: What You Should Know, What You Should Do.