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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer Society of Canada's 10 Warning Signs

1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day function
It is 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 his or her sentences difficult to understand.

4. Disorientation of time and place
It is 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 family 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 But a person with Alzheimer's disease can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn.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 is 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.

This is the picture of Alzheimer's disease as it comes on gradually, which is the most common way that it happens. Alzheimer's disease can sometimes come on suddenly, especially after an episode of acute confusion. Acute confusion can happen as a result of an acute illness (such as pneumonia or a heart attack ) or a medication problem, or surgery. It is common when this happens for families to say that the person they care for has 'never been the same since' that particular event.

People with Alzheimer's disease sometimes notice a so-called 'catastrophic failure' when they might suddenly become lost, or be unable to perform a simple chore. If this happens, it is worth seeking medical advice, because although the problem is sometimes entirely benign , and does not give rise to any further problem, sometimes, it can be a sign of a more serious illness (even dementia) and needs to be evaluated carefully.

For more information, please visit the Alzheimer Society of Canada or the Alzheimer's Association (US).

See Also:
About Dementia > Treatments for Dementia > Adverse Drug Reactions
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Last updated October 13, 2014
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