Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of Americans every year, but despite the disease’s prevalence many cases go undiagnosed for far too long. It’s important to understand the early warning signs for Alzheimer’s. When doctors detect the disease early enough, medical interventions can be more effective.
It’s common for everyone to have trouble navigating a foreign city or an unfamiliar stretch of highway, but a person getting lost in a familiar area may be suffering from Alzheimer’s. Many patients may get lost while returning home from daily errands like running to the grocery store, for example. At first, the patient may be able to recover and reorient himself quickly. Over time, the disease makes it harder and harder to find the way home.
Trouble with Times and Dates
It’s very common for Alzheimer’s patients to struggle with keeping track of days and times. Many will miss doctor visits and other appointments because they simply lose track of what day it is. It’s perfectly normal to forget the date every now and then, but frequent confusion and missed appointments may be a symptom of something more serious.
Speaking and Writing
Trouble with language is often one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s. Patients usually struggle to find words that most people would remember very easily, often pausing mid-sentence for several seconds in an effort to recall a phrase. Alzheimer’s patients also struggle with spelling. If you notice a loved one suddenly struggling to spell common words, it could be a sign of sign of the disease.
Again, it’s important to understand that occasionally forgetting words is part of growing older and not a sign of a disease. Frequent errors with basic language, however, are causes for concern.
Alzheimer’s doesn’t affect how well the eyes work, but it does change how the brain interprets the visual signals collected by the eye. As a result, Alzheimer’s patients often struggle to understand spatial relationships and may have difficulty with depth perception. One important thing to watch for is difficulty driving. Many patients lose their ability to drive very quickly. They can pose a serious danger to themselves and others if not carefully monitored.
The most famous symptom of Alzheimer’s is also the most common early warning sign. Memory loss is a normal problem associated with aging, but severe memory loss is a reliable sign of Alzheimer’s or other neurological condition. Early signs of the disease include forgetting familiar faces and locations. Many patients are adept at faking their way through interactions, pretending they remember a face or name when they do not. As a result, it may require close observation and careful testing to detect memory loss.
If you or a loved one is suffering from some or all of these symptoms, talk to a doctor as soon as possible. Alzheimer’s is incurable, but treatments can help slow down the progression of the disease and improve patients’ quality of life.