Is It Normal, Everyday Forgetfulness – Or Could It Be Alzheimer’s?
Know the 10 Signs
We’ve all had those “moments.” You go to get something from the other room, but the second you get there, you find yourself asking, “What did I come in here for?”
Or, what about those car keys that somehow walked off by themselves and hid from you? You’re running late and they’re not in their usual spot on the hook by the door or in the tray on top of that table in the foyer. You search high and low, and then suddenly, there they are—stuck between the sofa cushions or hiding inside that other handbag.
Sound familiar? Scenarios like these have happened to all of us at one time or another, but if they begin to occur a little more frequently, you might wonder whether it’s a sign of something much more serious than everyday forgetfulness, like, Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
“Someone who has dementia would not ever be able to recall why they went into that other room,” says Katie Macklin, Executive Director Delaware for the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter. “Someone who does not have Alzheimer’s would eventually remember—probably once they went back to what they were doing just before.”
Macklin further explains that people living with Alzheimer’s would most likely stumble upon those missing keys eventually, but once they found them—say, in the freezer—they would have no idea what they were or how they are used.
For many people, occasional forgetfulness can be attributed to stress or distractedness. It doesn’t mean you have Alzheimer’s, which is a fatal, degenerative brain disease that causes severe memory loss, as well as behavioral, personality, and other changes. The disease is the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death—more than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined. It’s also the only major leading cause of death without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.
In fact, Alzheimer’s deaths are on the rise as deaths from other causes are shrinking. Between 2000 and 2010, deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 68 percent, but deaths from other major diseases and medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS and stroke, declined significantly: -42% and -23%, respectively, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report.
Alzheimer’s affects more than five million people in the United States, including an estimated 200,000 younger than age 65 and, although rarer, some as young as 30. In Delaware, at least 26,000 residents have Alzheimer’s or a related disorder, such as frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Lewy body, or other types of dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter, which serves Delaware, South Jersey, and Southeastern Pennsylvania, encourages you to know the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s.
Macklin urges you to visit your doctor and call the Chapter’s 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 if you notice any of these signs in yourself or a loved one.
“Alzheimer’s Association staff can answer questions about the disease, our programs and services, and more,” Macklin says. “We can also provide assistance for anyone whose first language is not English. We’re here to help everyone who needs it.”
Information about Alzheimer’s, the Delaware Valley Chapter, and its programs and services is available online at: alz.org/delval.
The 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information.
What’s typical: Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. Some people may experience changes in their ability to follow a familiar recipe or keep track of monthly bills, taking much longer to do them and having difficulty concentrating.
What’s typical: Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks. People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to get through daily tasks at home, at work, or at leisure.
What’s typical: Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
4. Confusion with time or place: People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time, or have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they’ll forget where they are or how they got there.
What’s typical: Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Some people might have difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining color or contrast. They might pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room or might even not realize they are the person in the mirror.
What’s typical: Vision changes related to cataracts.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following, joining, or continuing a conversation. They might repeat themselves, struggle with vocabulary, or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).
What’s typical: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. A person with Alzheimer’s might put things in unusual places, lose things, and can’t go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they’ll accuse others of stealing, which might occur more frequently over time.
What’s typical: Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote.
8. Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer’s can experience changes in judgment or decision-making when dealing with money—giving large amounts to telemarketers, for example. They might pay less attention to personal grooming/hygiene.
What’s typical: Making a bad decision once in a while.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. Someone with Alzheimer’s might start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects, or sports because they can no longer keep up with a favorite sports team or remember how to complete a favorite hobby.
What’s typical: Sometimes feeling weary of work, family, and social obligations.
10. Changes in mood and personality. People with Alzheimer’s can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious—especially in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
What’s typical: Developing specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
About the Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter
The Alzheimer’s Association is the world leader in Alzheimer’s research and support. The Delaware Valley Chapter, headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., is the local arm of the National Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association. The Chapter provides programs and services to more than 294,000 individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s or a related disorder throughout 18 counties in Delaware, South Jersey, and Southeastern Pennsylvania.
For information about the Chapter and the disease, visit alz.org/delval, or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.
The Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter
240 N. James Street
Newport, DE 19804
Sussex County Branch office: Georgetown, DE
399 Market Street, Suite 102
Philadelphia, PA 19106
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