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Early Warning Signs: When to Call the Doctor About Alzheimer's

Are you worried about an older loved one’s memory or behavior? Has your mom been getting lost while running errands? Has your dad started to ask the same questions over and over?  Signs of the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease aren’t always clear-cut -- they can be hard to distinguish from normal, age-related memory changes.

To help guide you, here are the Alzheimer’s warning signs to watch for, along with advice about seeing a doctor and getting a diagnosis.

Alzheimer Disease Warning Signs

Many people confuse Alzheimer’s disease with dementia. What’s the difference? Alzheimer’s is a disease; dementia is a group of symptoms that include loss of memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. However, dementia isn’t always caused by Alzheimer’s disease; it can result from other conditions, as well.

Although some memory changes may be age-related, memory problems that interfere with daily life are not. According to experts, common early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias include:

  • Memory loss. Although older memories might seem unaffected, people with dementia might forget recent experiences or important dates or events. Anyone can forget some details from a recent event or conversation or recall them later. People with dementia might forget the entire thing.
  • Repetition. People with dementia may repeat stories, sometimes word for word. They may keep asking the same questions, no matter how many times they’re answered.
  • Language problems. We all struggle to remember a word occasionally. People with dementia can have profound problems remembering even basic words. Their way of speaking may become contorted and hard to follow.
  • Personality changes. People with dementia may have sudden mood swings. They might become emotional - upset or angry - for no particular reason. They might become withdrawn or stop doing things they usually enjoy. They could become uncharacteristically suspicious of family members -- or trusting of telemarketers.
  • Disorientation and confusion. People with dementia may get lost in places they know very well, like their own neighborhoods. They may have trouble completing basic and familiar tasks, like cooking dinner or shaving.
  • Lack of hygiene. Sometimes this is the most obvious sign of Alzheimer’s disease. People who have dressed smartly every day of their lives might start wearing stained clothing or stop bathing.
  • Odd behavior. We all misplace our keys from time to time. People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are prone to placing objects in odd and wholly inappropriate places. They might put a toothbrush in the fridge or milk in the cabinet under the sink.

If your loved one is exhibiting any of these Alzheimer’s warning signs, don’t panic. Having these symptoms doesn’t mean that your loved one necessarily has Alzheimer’s disease. But you need to schedule an appointment with the doctor for an evaluation.

WebMD Medical Reference

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