Although memory loss is typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, occasionally forgetting words or names does not mean a person has Alzheimer’s.
Knowing the symptoms
According to the National Institute on Aging, there are additional signs that someone with Alzheimer’s disease may experience. In the early stages of the disease, these can include:
- Getting lost
- Having trouble handling money and paying bills
- Repeating questions
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
- Displaying poor judgment
- Losing things or misplacing them in odd places
- Displaying mood and personality changes
There are other causes for memory problems, such as depression and particular medications or interactions between certain medications. These are treatable conditions and the symptoms can be reversed; however, these are also serious medical issues and should be identified and treated by a health care provider without delay. There is no single test or measure that can readily diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.
Why an early diagnosis matters
If you or someone you know has several or even most of the signs listed above, it does not mean that you or they have Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to consult a health care provider to rule out treatable causes when you or someone you know has concerns about memory loss, thinking skills or behavioral changes. Although the onset of Alzheimer’s disease cannot yet be stopped or reversed, an early diagnosis gives people and their families:
- More time to plan for the future.
- Lessened anxieties about unknown problems. Increased opportunities to participate in clinical drug trials to help advance research.
- The opportunity to make decisions about care, transportation, living options, finances and legal affairs.
- More time to develop relationships with doctors and care partners.
The bottom line is that signs and symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease shouldn’t be ignored. However, it’s not always the case that having some of these symptoms is a certain sign that you have the disease. Instead, until better diagnostic tests are designed, it’s better to err on the side of caution and discuss your concerns with your health care provider.
Dr. Valerie Edwards, Health Scientist, Healthy Aging Program, Division of Population Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, [email protected]