Millions of Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and the number continues to rise as more cases are diagnosed. The disease is once again in the headlines following the death of “Monty Python” star Terry Jones this week. Although the 77-year-old actor suffered from a rare form of dementia, in many cases the diseases are interlinked.
If left untreated, Alzheimer’s can massively interfere with one’s quality of life and eventually lead to deterioration of behavioral and cognitive functions. Early intervention is key to treating the disease, which is why it is important to spot these eight early warning signs, as highlighted by The Healthy:
1. Worrying about your memory. Researchers have found a link between people who are constantly worrying about their memory and Alzheimer’s. Those who were concerned about their thinking showed signs of the disease’s plaques in their brains. They were also more likely to develop symptoms of dementia.
2. Fragmented memories of recent important events. A big warning sign of Alzheimer’s is not being able to remember important conversations or events that took place recently. This does not necessarily apply to smaller things like losing your keys.
3. Struggling to manage finances. Battling to pay bills or struggling to transfer money from one account to another could be early warning signs of Alzheimer’s. Reisa Sperling, M.D., director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, explained that she always asks her patients who pays the bills in their household.
“If I hear that there’s been a change — say, the wife did all the bill paying, but her husband has recently taken over — that’s a concerning find,” she said.
4. Getting lost. People who suddenly get confused or disorientated in a place they have driven or walked many times before may be showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Researchers have found this “getting lost behavior” in patients suffering from the disease.
5. Skipping social events. Patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s do not enjoy being social or going out with friends as much as they used to. This is because they may suddenly have difficulty following conversations.
6. Losing interest in hobbies. A sudden loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable may be another early warning sign of Alzheimer’s.
“Alzheimer’s-related brain changes can cause apathy, which makes people lose motivation,” explained Sperling.
7. Inability to make plans. It is possible that people once good at making plans but suddenly struggle with basic decision making are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
8. Trouble speaking and using words. Struggling to find the right words in conversation may be another warning sign of Alzheimer’s. Often, a patient in the early stages of the disease will stop mid-conversation to try to remember simple words.