Warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease

warning signs of alzheimers

Published: August, 2018

Here are some common warning signs of Alzheimer's disease. If you or someone you love is experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, talk to a doctor.

Trouble remembering things. At first, only short-term memory may be affected. The individual may forget an appointment or the name of a new acquaintance. She may also forget where she left things, or she may leave things in odd places (for example, putting her shoes in the microwave). Eventually, long-term memory is impaired, and the individual may not recognize family members.

Mood or personality changes. Someone who used to be social and outgoing may become withdrawn. The person may also become stubborn, distrustful, angry, or depressed. Additional symptoms often accompany Alzheimer's disease, including loss of interest in a favorite hobby or activity, a change in appetite, insomnia or sleeping too much, lack of energy, and hopelessness.

Trouble completing routine daily tasks. Tasks that once caused no difficulty may become much more challenging. For example, a person may forget how to use a computer, drive a car, or use a microwave. Eventually, a person may forget how to lock the door, get dressed, or bathe.

Difficulty expressing thoughts. It's common for people with Alzheimer's disease to have trouble with language. This typically starts with difficulty finding words. The individual may try describing an object rather than using its name—for example, referring to the telephone as "the ringer" or "that thing I call people with." Reading or writing may also be impaired in later stages of the disease.

Impaired judgment. The individual might have trouble making decisions, solving problems, or planning. For example, he may no longer be able to balance a checkbook or pay bills.

Disorientation. We all know what it's like to be driving and momentarily forget where we're going. However, those with Alzheimer's disease may get lost in their own neighborhood. They may also lose track of dates and time.

Unusual behavior. The individual may wander, become agitated, hide things, wear too few or too many clothes, become overly suspicious, engage in unsafe behaviors, or use foul language.

For more on the warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's, read Alzheimer's Disease: A guide to diagnosis, treatment and caregiving from Harvard Medical School.

Image: © Xesai | GettyImages

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.