Memory loss is the main symptom that most people associate with Alzheimer's disease, but it's not the only sign. Researchers have identified several other common signs of Alzheimer’s that may come before memory loss. The following symptoms can be the first to appear in adults who develop Alzheimer's disease.
There are many examples of Alzheimer’s-related personality changes that can occur before memory loss. A normally warm and friendly person may suddenly become a bit of a curmudgeon, or begin to say inappropriate things. Or, you may notice that the person is starting to make odd accusations. Other signs include:
*Developing uncharacteristic fears of new or unknown situations, or a distrust of others whether it's familiar people or strangers.
*Signs of depression, or changes in sleep or appetite.
Issues such as these are often difficult to link to Alzheimer's because medical conditions and aging may also cause changes in someone's mood, behavior, or personality.
Vision problems are also among early signs of Alzheimer's that can precede memory loss. Symptoms may include trouble driving, navigating stairs, or judging distances. In more severe cases, the family member or loved one may not recognize herself or himself in a mirror, or when passing his or her reflection in a building or window.
Trouble with basic functioning
Struggling to carry out basic, familiar tasks is also among the early signs of Alzheimer's. The person may have trouble following written directions, such as recipes. Or, he or she may struggle with their favorite hobby. Other signs can include failing to follow through with plans, not tracking bills, or finding themselves unable to solve simple problems that used to present no difficulty.
Additionally, you may notice that the person fails to complete tasks they were in the middle of doing – whether it’s baking a cake or making a repair.
Making questionable decisions is also among the common early signs of Alzheimer's. This might include making odd decisions in self-care, such as dressing inappropriately or neglecting basic personal hygiene. For example, the person may dress in a winter parka on a hot summer day, seemingly unaware that the clothing they’ve chosen is not weather-appropriate. Or you may see that a person who once took pride in their appearance no longer bothers with how they look.
Other Alzheimer’s symptoms that can precede memory loss are word retrieval, and struggling to find the right word to complete a thought. This is a symptom that may come before more obvious issues such as repeating questions or stories. Language issues can be particularly frustrating for the person who fixates on finding the right word in the middle of a conversation. He or she may also forget or substitute words for everyday objects.
While anyone can experience these problems from time to time, they occur with increasing frequency for someone with dementia.
Trouble with finances
A person who is displaying early signs of Alzheimer's may struggle with keeping their finances in order. They may have trouble balancing a checkbook and with other simple mathematical tasks, or forget to pay bills - issues they never had before. Or they may be more likely to fall for any number of financial scams targeting senior citizens.
Social withdrawal is another personality change that can be an early symptom of Alzheimer's. Your loved one may struggle with not being in control of his or her faculties at all time - enough so that he or she may have less energy or desire to interact with others. They also may not be aware that they're losing interest in interacting with friends and family because they're focused on just getting through each day.
Embarrassment about their struggles and depression can also cause the sufferer to withdraw from family, friends and social situations.
Those who exhibit early signs of Alzheimer's may become disoriented in unfamiliar or new environments, such as a hospital, airport, or hotel, or even in environments they know well. They may get lost while driving or after parking, or have trouble keeping appointments and remembering other events and commitments. Disorientation is typical in later stages of the disease but can also occur early on.
All of the symptoms listed above can go unnoticed for a long time and may be concealed by the person experiencing them, as these behaviors can cause understandable understandably distress. If you first notice these symptoms in someone you know, keep track of their behavior to see whether or not these behavior patterns become more obvious. If the answer is yes, encourage them to tell their doctor about what they’re experiencing.