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10 Warning Signs

(Content reproduced with permission from the Alzheimer Society of Canada)


Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disease. Symptoms include loss of memory, difficulty with day-to-day tasks, and changes in mood and behaviour. People may think these symptoms are part of normal aging but they aren't. It is important to see a doctor when you notice any of these symptoms as they may be due to other conditions such as depression, drug interactions or an infection. If the diagnosis is Alzheimer's disease, your local Alzheimer Society can help.

To help you know what warning signs to look for, the Alzheimer Society has developed the following list:
  1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day function
    It's normal to occasionally forget appointments, colleagues' names or a friend's phone number and remember them later. A person with Alzheimer's disease may forget things more often and not remember them later, especially things that have happened more recently.
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
    Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may leave the carrots on the stove and only remember to serve them at the end of a meal. A person with Alzheimer's disease may have trouble with tasks that have been familiar to them all their lives, such as preparing a meal.
  3. Problems with language
    Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer's disease may forget simple words or substitute words, making her sentences difficult to understand.
  4. Disorientation of time and place It's normal to forget the day of the week or your destination -- for a moment. But a person with Alzheimer's disease can become lost on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home.
  5. Poor or decreased judgment
    People may sometimes put off going to a doctor if they have an infection, but eventually seek medical attention. A person with Alzheimer's disease may have decreased judgment, for example not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.
  6. Problems with abstract thinking
    From time to time, people may have difficulty with tasks that require abstract thinking, such as balancing a cheque book. Someone with Alzheimer's disease may have significant difficulties with such tasks, for example not recognizing what the numbers in the cheque book mean.
  7. Misplacing things
    Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in inappropriate places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
  8. Changes in mood and behaviour
    Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer's disease can exhibit varied mood swings -- from calm to tears to anger -- for no apparent reason.
  9. Changes in personality
    People's personalities can change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer's disease can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn. Changes may also include apathy, fearfulness or acting out of character.
  10. Loss of initiative
    It's normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. A person with Alzheimer's disease may become very passive, and require cues and prompting to become involved.

  11. For information on diagnosis, see Getting a Diagnosis: Finding Out If It Is Alzheimer Disease.

    (This information is also available in a brochure from your local Alzheimer Society or you can download the brochure from this site.)
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