How to Spot Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Senile Dementia is a disorder of aging and neurodegeneration. We usually start seeing signs of short- term memory loss at the age of 65 years.

Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) is a different beast altogether. 

What is Alzheimer’s Disease and at what age do people get it?

Alzheimer’s is a disease consisting of neuronal amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain. We usually see the onset around the same age as Dementia— 65— but it can present in earlier years. The Rottenberg study showed that the average age of diagnosis was 82 but that memory issues started 16 years prior.

Researchers are still trying to discover the root cause of the disease and how it progresses. There is a genetic link seen in early-onset AD, family history is a risk, and acquired factors could contribute; including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, brain injury and cerebrovascular disease.

What are some early signs of Alzheimer’s?

The early signs of AD are:

Memory loss

Difficulty solving problems

Difficulty with time and place or events

Difficulty performing everyday tasks

Mood changes

Withdrawal from socializing

Vision Loss

How do I know whether it is memory loss or Alzheimer’s?

The memory loss that occurs as we age may be expected: things like forgetting where we placed our car keys or forgetting why we came into the room we are in. However, if you or a loved one starts repeating the same questions over and over, or they are forgetting something that was just spoken about, that may be an early sign. Forgetting the names of everyday items or forgetting how to use those items such as a tooth brush used to brush teeth may also be an early sign.

In these situations, it is best to see a provider.

What should I look for in myself or a loved one?

With AD, solving problems become more difficult — especially problems with numbers.  If balancing a checkbook or handling money becomes challenging, these are early signs of AD.

Time and dates become increasingly difficult to remember with AD, and not being able to plan events in the future may also be an early sign. 

Alzheimer’s patients will easily get lost and have no idea where home is. And, if a loved one stops bathing or grooming themselves, they may be at risk for AD.

Alzheimer’s patients may also become very moody, aggressive or fearful and if you notice new symptoms of depression or anxiety, it may be time to talk to your provider.

Vision loss and decreased hearing can lead to worsening progression of the disease, as we are not functioning with all our senses.

Getting annual eye exams as well as Audiology assessments for hearing aids is recommended.

How can I help prevent Alzheimer’s from progressing?

We encourage all Medicare patients over the age of 65 to get their Annual Wellness screenings completed each year. At these exams, your provider will assess for these early signs of AD so that interventions can be made to decrease the progression and to get help sooner rather than later.

Resources for Alzheimer’s information

The Alzheimer’s Association of Southern Nevada has great resources for families including support groups.

Visiting Angels is another resource to help those suffering with the disease and their families.

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