Are you worried about your mental sharpness? Or maybe that of a loved one’s?
Mild forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. If you have trouble remembering someone's name but it comes to you later, that's not a serious memory problem.
But if memory problems are seriously affecting your daily life, they could be early signs of Alzheimer's disease. While the number of symptoms you have and how strong they are vary, it’s important to identify the early signs. You need to ask yourself some tough questions.
1. Memory loss
This is the most common symptom. Do you easily forget information you just learned? Do you lose track of important dates, names, and events? Do you forget big things even happened? Do you ask for the same information over and over? Do you rely heavily on memory aids like Post-it notes or reminders on your smartphone?
2. Trouble planning and problem solving
Do you have trouble making plans and sticking to them? Is it tricky to follow a recipe, even one you’ve used many times? Is it hard to concentrate on detailed tasks, especially if they involve numbers? For example, can you keep track of your bills and balance your checkbook?
3. Daily tasks are a challenge
Even familiar things can become hard. Do you have trouble driving to a location you go to often? Can you complete an ordinary task at work? Do you forget the rules of your favorite game?
4. Times and places are confusing
Can you fully grasp something that’s not happening right now? Are you disoriented? Do you get lost easily? Do you forget where you are? Do you remember how you got there?
5. Changes in vision
Is it harder to read the words on the page? Do you have trouble judging distance? Can you tell colors apart? This is important because it can affect your driving.
6. Words and conversations are frustrating
Vocabulary becomes hard. Can you find the right word you’re looking for? Or do you call things by the wrong name?
Conversations can be a struggle. Do you avoid joining in? Are you able to follow along? Do you suddenly stop in the middle of a discussion because you don’t know what to say? Do you keep repeating yourself?
7. You lose things
Everyone misplaces things from time to time, but can you retrace your steps to find them again? Do you put things in unusual places, like your watch in the refrigerator? Do you accuse people of taking things?
8. Lapse in judgment
Have you made poor decisions lately? Do you make mistakes with money, like giving it away when you normally wouldn’t?
Are you showering as often? Do you take less care of yourself? Do you dress for the wrong weather?
9. Social withdrawal
Are you scaling back on projects at work? Are you less involved with your favorite hobbies? Do you lack motivation? Do you find yourself watching television or sleeping more than usual?
10. Mood changes
Do you get upset more easily? Do you feel depressed, scared, or anxious? Are you suspicious of people?
Seeing Your Doctor
If you notice these signs, talk with your doctor. She will evaluate your physical and mental health. She will look over your medical history and do a mental status test, which looks at your memory, ability to solve simple problems, and thinking skills. She may also do blood or brain imaging tests.
She may then refer you to someone who specializes in Alzheimer’s, like a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in treating the brain and nervous system), psychiatrist, psychologist, or geriatrician (a doctor who specializes in treating older people).
Why You Should Make an Appointment Now
The sooner you know, the better. Starting treatment may help relieve symptoms and keep you independent longer.
It also helps you plan better. You can work out living arrangements, make financial and legal decisions, and build up your support network.