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.