10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

A certain amount of memory loss as we age is not uncommon. In fact, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, almost 40 per cent of people over the age of 65 experience occasional memory problems. But how can you tell when memory loss is just a normal part of aging – or a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias?

Here are 10 warning signs from the Alzheimer Society of Canada

Memory loss that affects day-to-day function

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments, colleagues’ names or a friend’s phone number and then remember them later. A person with Alzheimer’s disease, however, may forget things more often and not remember them later.

Difficulty performing familiar tasks

People with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble with tasks that have been familiar to them all their lives, such as preparing a meal, driving to a familiar location or remembering the rules of a favourite game.

Problems with language

Alzheimer’s disease may cause a person to forget simple words or use substitute words, making conversations difficult to follow or understand.

Disorientation of time and place

A person with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost even on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home. Visual images and spatial relationships may also cause some difficulty. A person with Alzheimer’s, for example, may have difficulty judging distance and determining colour and contrast.

Poor or decreased judgment

Decreased judgment, like not recognizing a medical problem that needs immediate attention or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day can also be signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Problems with abstract thinking

Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have significant difficulties with such tasks as tracking monthly bills or balancing a cheque book – they may not understand what the numbers in the cheque book mean.

Misplacing things

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may misplace things on a frequent basis and even put them in inappropriate places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

Changes in mood and behaviour

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease can exhibit extreme and varied mood swings – moving from calm to tears to anger – for no apparent reason.

Changes in personality

A person with Alzheimer’s disease can also exhibit marked changes such as confusion, depression, suspicion or withdrawal. Changes may also include apathy, fearfulness, becoming easily upset or acting out of character.

Loss of initiative

A person with Alzheimer’s may become extremely passive and start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports and often require cues and prompting to become involved again.


– Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of normal aging, but the risk of the disorder does increase with age. It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 63 per cent of all cases in Canada.

– Dementia can strike adults at any age, but has traditionally been diagnosed in people over 65. But we now know that symptoms can start much earlier, and an increasing number of people are being diagnosed in their 50s and early 60s.

– Women represent 72 per cent of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease, and 62 per cent of overall dementia cases.

– Although genetics play a role in the disease, only a small percentage of cases derive from genes that cause the inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease.

– Researchers are confident that within 5 to 7 years, there will be treatments that attack the disease process itself, not just the symptoms.

– As of today, there are more than 24 million people in the world with Alzheimer’s or a related disease – this figure is estimated to rise to 81 million by the year 2040.

And while there is no way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, there is growing evidence that there are things people can do to help reduce their risk. It is thought that diet, physical and mental activity and social engagement all play an important role. (To learn more see Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Mediterranean diet may reduce risk of Alzheimer’s.)

Additional Sources: Mayo Clinic; Alzheimer Society of Canada.

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