As people age, it’s common to experience some slight memory lapses. Your mother might forget about a doctor appointment, for example. Or your grandfather might take some time to recall your name.
Moments like these are likely to happen now and again. But what if it’s a frequent occurrence? How can you tell if your loved one is simply forgetful, or if there is something more serious going on?
There are 5.5 million Americans over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease today. About 10 percent of Americans over age 65, and 32 percent of people over 85, have been diagnosed with the disease.
If you’re caring for an elderly friend or relative, it’s important to know the signs of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). That way, they can receive treatment early for the best possible outcome.
Here are five signs to look for:
1. Significant Memory Loss
Small, infrequent memory lapses are likely due to age. However, if your loved one experiences memory loss that disrupts their daily activities, it could be a red flag for Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Struggle To Complete Routine Tasks
Watch out for challenges completing their usual tasks. For example, if your dad gets lost multiple times on his way to the coffee shop he visits every day, that would be something to take note of.
Look for signs of neglect in their home or hygiene. Bills might be left unpaid, dishes could pile up, or they could forget to change their clothes day to day.
3. Location Or Time Confusion
Your loved one might start forgetting how they got somewhere, or they could start performing their usual tasks and errands at odd hours.
People with AD may also experience time confusion. Minutes can feel like hours. If your father has been at your house for five minutes, but he thinks he’s been there all afternoon and it’s time to go home, that could be a warning sign.
4. Impaired Judgment
The first area you might notice impaired judgment or poor decision-making is with your loved one’s finances. Have their spending habits changed? Maybe they’ve started giving money away to people they shouldn’t, or they’re refusing to pay bills.
Impaired judgment can show up in other ways, too. A common example is dressing inappropriately for the weather or season.
5. Misplacing Items
We’ve all forgotten our keys or our phone. They turn up in a purse or a pants pocket eventually, somewhere we absently placed them.
But for someone with AD, objects are likely to turn up in unusual places, and they don’t remember how they got there. Keys could be in the cupboard, or a remote in the bread box.
If you ask them to retrace their steps to help find an object, they might not recall when they had it last or where it could be.
If your loved one experiences isolated incidents of forgetfulness, it’s not likely anything to be concerned about. Everyone forgets a word, a name, or where they put something from time to time.
But if you notice some of the above symptoms happening frequently together, it’s important to bring it up to a doctor. An official diagnosis will help your loved one get the treatment they need.