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Is it Alzheimer's?

A bunch of sticky notes, some with question marks written on them, inside a paper cutout shaped like a brain.

June 1, 2019—It's common to get a little forgetful with age. However, when someone increasingly has trouble remembering things or gets very easily confused, it's natural to wonder if it could be the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

According to the Alzheimer's Association and other experts, you shouldn't ignore signs like these in yourself or a loved one:

Major memory problems. We all forget the car keys once in a while. But forgetting important information or things you just learned can be a sign of a more serious problem.

Difficulty with everyday tasks. With Alzheimer's, familiar tasks can become confusing. For instance, someone may suddenly be unable to find a place they go every day. Or they might have trouble cooking a familiar dish.

Confusion about time and place. If someone loses track of what year or season it is or can't remember how they got somewhere, that's cause for concern.

An increase in poor judgment. Someone with Alzheimer's may make poorer decisions than usual, such as mishandling their finances.

Losing things and not being able to find them. Misplacing things in odd locations or not being able to retrace your steps to find something is another possible sign of Alzheimer's.

Trouble with conversations. Alzheimer's can affect the ability to follow or finish a conversation. Take note if someone often gets confused or stops in the middle of a normal chat.

Changes in mood or personality. People with Alzheimer's might become more easily confused, upset or anxious than usual.

Avoiding social situations. Alzheimer's can also make people withdraw from social life or work. Often, this is because normal tasks have become confusing.

What should you do if you're worried?

It's important not to jump to conclusions. Memory problems can have many treatable medical causes besides Alzheimer's. So start with these steps if you think you or someone you care about might be showing signs of the disease:

  • Assess things honestly. Ask yourself what changes you've noticed. Ask others around you if they've noticed the same issues.
  • Talk about it. If you're worried about yourself, talking with someone you trust is a great first step. If you're worried about someone else, start a conversation with them. You might tell them what you've noticed—and ask how they've been feeling lately.
  • Visit the doctor. A doctor can diagnose the problem, provide advice and, if needed, create a treatment plan.

While there's no cure for Alzheimer's disease, there are treatments that can help ease the symptoms and make life more enjoyable. So it's worth reaching out for help.

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