How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease


Your memory often changes as you grow older, but memory loss that disrupts your daily life is not a typical part of aging.

Frustrated by the new computer system installed at work, and unwilling to master the new technology, Mary retired from her job as a bank teller years ago. At age 67, she looked forward to spending more time with her grandchildren. Over time, her children began noticing that Mary would sometimes forget to pay bills and an even began forgetting how to drive to familiar places. Concerned, her children took her to a doctor who diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Your memory often changes as you grow older, but memory loss that disrupts your daily life is not a typical part of aging.

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time.

Approximately 5.7 million people in the U.S. currently have Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s not just a disease of old age: 200,000 people under age 65 have it.

10 Symptoms to Look For

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life: forgetting events, repeating yourself or relying on more aids to help you remember (for example, sticky notes or reminders).
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems: having trouble paying bills or cooking recipes you have used for years.
  3. Difficulty completing routine tasks: driving to familiar places, using a cell phone, or shopping.
  4. Confusion with time or places: having trouble understanding an event that is happening later, or losing track of dates.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships: having difficulty with balance or judging distance, tripping over things at home, or spilling or dropping things more often.
  6. Increasing problems with words in speaking or writing: having trouble following or joining a conversation or struggling to find a word you are looking for.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps (for example, placing car keys in the washer or dryer).
  8. Decreased judgment: being a victim of a scam, not managing money well, paying less attention to hygiene, or having trouble taking care of a pet.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities: not wanting to go to church or other favorite activities, struggling to follow football games or keep up with what’s happening.
  10. Changes in mood and personality: getting easily upset in common situations or being fearful or suspicious.

What to do

If you notice changes in yourself or a loved one related to memory loss, visit a doctor for a full medical evaluation. Many conditions can cause memory loss or affect thinking and behavior. If the cause isn't Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it could be a treatable condition. While there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, medical management can improve the quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.