Memory loss that disrupts everyday life is not a normal part of aging. It may be a sign of Alzheimer's disease, a fatal brain disease that gets worse over time and causes changes in thinking, reasoning and behavior. Although the disease is more common in people 65 and older, it can also strike those in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
Ten warning signs of Alzheimer's:
- Memory loss.
Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later.
What's normal? Forgetting names or appointments occasionally.
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
People with dementia often find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. Individuals may lose track of the steps to prepare a meal, place a telephone call or play a game.
What's normal? Occasionally forgetting why you came into a room or what you planned to say.
- Problems with language.
People with Alzheimer's disease often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. They may be unable to find their toothbrush, for example, and instead ask for "that thing for my mouth."
What's normal? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
- Disorientation to time and place.
People with Alzheimer's disease can become lost in their own neighborhoods, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.
What's normal? Forgetting the day of the week or where you were going.
- Poor or decreased judgment.
Those with Alzheimer's may dress inappropriately, wearing several MORE layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show poor judgment about money, like giving away large sums to telemarketers.
What's normal? Making a questionable or debatable decision from time to time.
- Problems with abstract thinking.
Someone with Alzheimer's disease may have unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are and how they should be used.
What's normal? Finding it challenging to balance a checkbook.
- Misplacing things.
A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
What's normal? Misplacing keys or a wallet temporarily.
- Changes in mood or behavior.
Someone with Alzheimer's disease may show rapid mood swings - from calm to tears to anger - for no apparent reason.
What's normal? Occasionally feeling sad or moody.
- Changes in personality.
The personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member.
What's normal? People's personalities do change somewhat with age.
- Loss of initiative.
A person with Alzheimer's disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities.
What's normal? Sometimes feeling weary of work or social obligations.
Micheal Pope (pronounced "Michelle") has been the Executive Director of Alzheimer's Services of the East Bay (ASEB) since September 2008. Previously she worked as the Deputy Director for ASEB's program and services. Pope joined the organization in January 1997 and brought with her a wealth of work experience in the home health industry. She has held the position of Program Director of ASEB's Hayward location. After a successful five years as a Program Director, Pope became ASEB's Director of Development. She has enhanced the organizations fundraising program with her ability to touch people with her passion for making the world a better place for seniors. Pope has a special place in her heart for those seniors and their caregivers living with memory loss. She has more than 20 years experience in health care management, with an emphasis in marketing. She has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing from New Hampshire College and has done course work in City Planning and Urban Affairs at Boston University. Pope is a board member of the California Culture Change Coalition Steering Council and is a past member of the Long Term Care Steering Committee, Service Review Advisory Committee/East Bay Paratransit. She has served on the board of Ombudsman, Inc., Alameda and is the past-president of the Board of the Contra Costa Child Care Council.