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These Three Behaviors Might Be Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

Helping Loved Ones with Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

When you can’t place a name or you forget why you walked into a room, have you ever wondered “Is it Alzheimer’s?” In fact, memory loss can be caused by many different factors, from normal aging to stress, drug side effects, excessive drinking and brain injury.

So should you worry? Every situation is different, but a good rule of thumb is to worry about behaviors that represent a change from your point of view. In general, experts tend to agree that the following three situations can be suggestive of the cognitive changes of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia:

1. Relying on “Work-Arounds” — Changing the Way Things Get Done

Dementia interferes with a person’s ability to manage daily life. In mild cognitive dementia or early-stage dementia, the person still has self-awareness – realizing that he or she is making mistakes or can’t remember things well, and it’s frustrating and frightening.

  • They try to compensate by double-and triple-checking things, or abandoning projects that have become too challenging.
  • May quit hobbies because they can’t tolerate the mistakes, or engage in more simplified versions of activities.
  • May also make fanciful excuses for why things didn’t get done or got done the way they did.

2. Having a Hard Time Making Choices and Decisions

Waffling and procrastinating can represent a dementia-related change, especially if the person has always been decisive. That’s because dementia affects the kind of higher-order thinking associated with making decisions.

  • Someone who always planned the vacation may keep putting it off, or handle some of the details but miss others.
  • Even simple, everyday decisions become slow or even impossible.
  • The person has trouble processing the information and options – what to order from a large menu, where to sit at the movies, what to wear for the day.

3. Decreased Ability to Manage Money

Trouble handling money can be another early symptom of Alzheimer’s because of the types of cognitive skills involved. Red flags:

  • Making math errors when balancing a checkbook, ignoring bills, or forgetting they’ve been paid.
  • Having trouble using an ATM card, or trying to use the wrong kind of card (a membership or health insurance card) in the ATM.
  • Making uncharacteristic or repeated donations to charities, renewing subscriptions to periodicals that are never read, or becoming susceptible to financial scammers.

Have You Ever Noticed Someone with Signs of Memory Loss?

If you’ve ever noticed or diagnosed a loved one you thought was showing early signs of memory loss , we’d like to hear from you. Please share your story with us below.

Paula Spencer Scott is senior editor at Caring.com, the leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. Paula is a 2011 MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow and writes extensively about health and caregiving. If you think you may have a loved one with early signs of Alzheimer’s, please see Paula’s story How to Tell if Someone With Dementia Needs Assisted Living.

Comments (11)

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Ann Heron Aug 14, 2020 4:04pm
Wow. For people that are having problems with memory and focus - this is too long of a video. It was frustrating listing to it waiting it to get the point. I listened for 1/2 hour and couldn't take it anymore.
Kathleen David May 25, 2020 7:28pm
My husband seems to demonstrate early signs of Alzheimer. 78 yr old lawyer: Drives too quickly, gets tickets, gets into accidents which he claims r never his fault. Ins. Co. covers him only because we have other insurance for bldgs. we own, and offers high premium. Very argumentative at all times over nothing, with me and his two adult children. When I point out that he should not have said Blah Blah Blah to his kids, he vehemently denies it and claims he was right. He is right all the time!! Loses credit cards, hearing aids, wallets, glasses, keys etc. etc. . Goes shopping for one thing, comes back with the things we really don't need. Has an obsession with having lots of food in fridge (for 2 old adults) and goes to Costco instead of Home Depot. An hour later he realizes his mistakes and wants to make them better but kids r offended and I am at end of my rope. Wants to control everything since he no longer works as a lawyer. What do I do with all of this?? What was once a happy marriage is now difficult to manage!!
Wanda Mullins Apr 24, 2020 9:41am
Constantly making chewing motions but nothing in the mouth.
Karla Sneed Mar 31, 2020 1:29pm
Excellent post!!!!
Joe Malinchalk Mar 26, 2020 3:00pm
My mother is 88. My two remaining sisters and I take care of her. She lives in a very nice house with my sister Carol in Ocean Isle Beach NC. She and her husband travel a lot and I go stay with Mom while they're gone I live with my other sister Debbie out in the sticks in a pretty nice house, we're both in our mid to late 60's . Carol and her husband went to Israel at the beginning of the recent problems, they made it home the day before they shut the borders. But had to go into self isolation, so Mom came to stay with me, my sister Debbie stayed with a friend. Staying with her for a few days at a time I noticed a cognitive decline before. Spending a few weeks with her alone it has rapidly increased. Her short term memory as decreased to about 5 minutes. Most of the time she doesn't know where she is. She talks nonsense and references people that have been dead for years. She often calls me Cletus, her brother that has been dead for 3 years or Mike, my brother that has been dead for 15 years. She said yesterday that her sister Esteline had a table just like the one next to her bed that she saw today at her house, Esteline has been dead for 2 years. She falls, yesterday I heard it, when I saw her position I didn't want to move her and called 911. The hospital (Novant) is only a couple miles away and immediately called my sisters 20 minutes away to tell them what was going on. The hospital is in lock-down like I expected and waited for my sisters, when they got there I told them to wait while I went home to get supplies to camp in my truck in the parking lot. I got back ready for the long overnight. My sisters went home. The hospital people knocked on my window about 4 hours later and said they were releasing her (she had a broken rib). We got her in the truck and thank God I was able to get her in the house on my own and get her into bed. She was still talking nonsense like she has been for weeks. She got angry with me for not wanting to go upstairs and get her something, there is no upstairs. She got angrier and wanted to prove to me there was, I put her in her walker to show her there wasn't . I had to threaten her that I would strap her down with a cargo strap from my truck if she didn't keep getting out of bed. Finally had mys sister Debbie come and sleep with her. I asked Debbie this morning if Mom was doing any better, she shook her head no. This cognitive degeneration has been going on for a year and half and is accelerating at a very disturbing pace. Is there anything I can do?
Rocco DiSpirito Mar 03, 2020 5:28pm
Yes ! One of the first things I noticed with my 85 yea old was if we went to the diner to eat,she was confused by the menu and could not figure out what to order.Sadly,I did not recognize this as the start of dementia.Later that year,she could no longer balance he check-book and it was covered in white-out and the numbers all garbled.By 87,It was much worse,and she died at 89 in a nursing home with the disease full blown.It was extremely devastating to me;she was my best friend,my hero and my rock my entire life....I remain heart-broken one year later over her loss and how she died.
Worried in Cleveland Feb 02, 2020 11:25am
My husband takes a long list of medications, drinks and uses marijuana. On top of this his mother had Alzheimer’s. Can’t his physicians see all of this thru his bloodwork and cognitive loss? He thinks he can do all of this and his response is I’m old, I don’t work and who cares? Will all of these factors come crashing into each other ?
Jan Connor Jan 10, 2020 8:09am
I have a family member who is showing different behavior to me. She gets angry a lot regarding when she asks if something is hers and then denies it is. She denies that it is hers in a very angry tone and accuses the person that it is not true. She sets something down and argues that she did not. She will make comments such as "I did not put that there" "I do not do that" I do not understand what you are saying" and her tone of voice is very angry and critical. She misplaces something and blames someone else for doing it. It seems like that her basic personality has become more angry, more in denial, and her tone of voice is loud and attacking. If you could send me an opinion on what you think I would greatly appreciate it.
Cindy Jipson Nov 01, 2018 6:13pm
i cannot remember phone number forget people name when said forget where i put thing also forget tran money from one account to another
John and sandra Sep 18, 2018 10:30am
My wife wakes up in the middle of the night says I am talking to another woman tried clonazepam still wakes up for about 1 hour . Been diagnosed with Alzheimer's
Joe and Stella Sep 15, 2018 7:07pm
My wife forgot the name of our street, forgot the words strainer and pecan just recently. Is this a cause for corncern? She seemed to remember our street until she saw the street sign and had to asked me the word strainer, she finally remembered pecan on her own. She also has been having headaches and migraines often.