Worried It's Alzheimer's? 8 Symptoms to Watch For

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Applying the word "Alzheimer's" to someone close to you can be uncomfortable, even if the signs, or symptoms, have been adding up for some time. It's much easier to gloss over strange behavior: "Oh, Mom's just getting older. "Or to rationalize: "Well, we all forget things sometimes."

Only a qualified physician can conclude with high certainty that a living person has Alzheimer's disease. But the following eight symptoms are strongly associated with the disease. If you detect these signs in someone, it would be wise to seek a medical evaluation.

Alzheimer's symptom #1: Memory lapses

  1. Does the person ask repetitive questions or retell stories within minutes of the first mention?
  2. Does he forget the names of recent acquaintances or younger family members, such as grandchildren?
  3. Are memory lapses growing progressively worse (such as affecting information that was previously very well known)?
  4. Are they happening more frequently (several times a day or within short periods of time)?
  5. Is this forgetfulness unusual for the person (such as sudden memory lapses in someone who prided herself on never needing grocery lists or an address book)?

Everyone forgets some things sometimes. But the person may have Alzheimer's disease if you notice these kinds of lapses.

Having problems with memory is the first and foremost symptom noticed. It's a typical Alzheimer's symptom to forget things learned recently (such as the answer to a question, an intention to do something, or a new acquaintance) but to still be able to remember things from the remote past (such as events or people from childhood, sometimes with explicit detail). In time, even long-term memories will be affected. But by then other Alzheimer's symptoms will have appeared.


Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio


8 months ago, said...

Many mild symptoms listed are similar to depression and prei-menopause. How do you know when to be concerned that it is neurological?


8 months ago, said...

I've been the primary caregiver for my mother for the last 5 years . She was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease over 10 years ago. I would like to add 9. "hoarding". Amassing numerous of the same items. When I moved into her home and cleaned out her cabinets , I found 24 cans of crushed pineapple , 7 opened jars of salsa, 8 rolls of aluminum foil , 6 extra large jugs of dish washing soap, a frozen turkey that was expired by 6 years, and numerous packages of patriotic paper napkins. I lived away and was able to visit only every 6 months . My one sibling who lived nearby denied she had problems . And 10. Accusatory . My mother accuses me of stealing her "pretty things" i.e. brick-a-brack, every time I move them to dust them. It got so bad I've stopped dusting them. 11. She also doesn't believe me when I try to tell her she needs to eat. She loosing the ability to recognize hunger and can't remember when she last ate.


8 months ago, said...

My 71 year old husband's personal hygiene is in the toilet. He rarely bathes or brushes his teeth. He is refusing to shave, trim his nose or ear hair or even get a hair cut. He looks like he lives on the streets. He resents any requests to change. Is this a part of Alzheimer's or is it dementia? This has progressed over a period of a year to where he is now.


8 months ago, said...

Not all of those symptoms are solely due to Alzheimer's. My father is 84 years old and has asked repetitive questions ever since I've known him. He does not have Alzheimer's. He simply just doesn't listen to the answers the first time. I have forgotten items on my grocery list while leaving the store. Being menopausal and anxiety ridden, some of the above symptoms can be attributed to that. Check with actual medical personnel before you tout your product. Thank you.


9 months ago, said...

I am caregiver for my husband, of over 54 years, and he is in the middle of stage #6.....is now starting to forget people and family members, and their relationship to him....has lost interest in ability to enjoy all the things we have done over the years....playing cards, games, reading, tv shows and movies, taking excursions, etc...and now he wants to sleep most of his nights and days away....he will be 87 on his next birthday soon, and since he is in the mid #6 stage I have decided to let him do what he is comfortable with...unfortunately it leaves me lonely and missing our great times together....


over 1 year ago, said...

xfrustratedx, I am so sorry to hear how your brother has isolated your mother, and it is important that you find out what is going on with her will and money, too. You must speak to an attorney who specializes in elderlaw. Maybe you can ask a friend with older parents which attorney they use. Otherwise, just type "elderlaw attorney" into a Google search, along with the name of your city. If you make a few calls, some attorneys will speak to you briefly over the phone. Others will only speak with you in person for a fee. Make a few calls to find someone you feel comfortable with. Also, Google "Adult Protective Services" or "Office of Aging" along with the name of your city, and they may help with what sounds like a possible case of elder abuse. I am so sorry about your situation, andI hope you are able to see your mother again (though I'll bet you are right there in her heart always).


over 1 year ago, said...

My mother is on the 8th stage you have listed above. My brother has made this worse by isolating her completely from the outside world and not allowing anyone to visit or call her. It has been two years since I saw her along with her two brothers and grandchildren and church members and friends. I have a trust fund that my Mother gave me monthly to care for myself and children, he has taken that and will not let me see a copy of the will or anything that has to do with my Mother. He has cut me off completely from seeing or knowing anything about her, is this legal? is it hurting her more and progressing this disease farther by thinking everyone has abandoned her or doesn't care? Doesn't he need to file some type of papers when she was marked medically incompetent to care for her and pay her bills for her? He has no power of attorney and he is one of two of us as her children, don't I have some say with her and her care and future? Pls if you know the answers to any of this or comments to are appreciated, I don't know what to do anymore =(


over 1 year ago, said...

We live in berlin, md,21811. Where is the best place to take my 76 year old wife for testing for Alzheimer's Disease ?


over 1 year ago, said...

Husband had a stroke 7 years ago snd refuses to try to get better. Laughs and cusses at me. Only to me


over 1 year ago, said...

is Alzheimer passed on from generation to generation


almost 2 years ago, said...

I do forget alot


almost 2 years ago, said...

IM 42 YEARS OLD, I LOST MY HUSBAND TO THE WAR IN Iraq BACK 2005. THEY TOLD ME I HAD PTSD THE ONLY SYPTOM I HAD OUT OF MANY OF PTSD WAS MEMORY LOSS. THEY SAID IT WOULD GET BETTER AND IT DID, BUT IN THE PAST 6 MONTHS IVE NOTICED ITS GOTTEN MUCH WORSE. I GO TO DO SOMETHING AND FORGET WHAT I WAS ABOUT TO DO. I STRUGGLE TO PRONOUCE CERTAIN WORDS, I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO SAY AND I GO TO SAY IT AND SOMETHING ELSE COMPLETELY COMES OUT, MY KIDS KEEP TELLING ME IM LOOSING IT, AND THAT THEY ALREADY TOLD ME. DO I HAVE EARLY STAGES OF DIMENTIA?


almost 2 years ago, said...

boy was this web site a big waste of time! I was interested in a list of early alzheimer's symptoms, not in clicking through web page after web page of nearly useless information (useless because most of it is obvious, "memory lapses" -- gee, how informative!). In the time it took to go from page-1 to page-2 on could have read all the symptoms if presented in a single page listing. So long! There are many better ways to waste one's time on the Internet!


almost 2 years ago, said...

My mom and her sister had dementia. Her sister started with dementia in her late 60's and my mom started in her late 70's. I worry all of the time that I will be next. I feel like sometimes I dwell too much on it and scare myself over stupid things I do. My mom was very mean, her sister not at all. I just hope if I do get it that I am a nice person and not mean.


almost 2 years ago, said...

Having worked in an Alzheimer's Unit and talking with families, the common denominator they experienced first was paranoia. The adult children would be devastated to have their parent accuse them of stealing from them. Dementia is simply forgetfulness, confusion with time and place, but Alzheimers patients display personality changes which progress into abnormal behavior.


almost 2 years ago, said...

Thank you for writing this important article. I lost my father to Alzheimer's in January of 2013. I don't think we are yet able to identify Alzheimer's in the early stages. It's only after the symptoms progress, and we are forced to act, that we can look back and see the beginning signs. That is one of the reasons I wrote about my journey with my father's Alzheimer's, in Where Memories Meet - Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer's, on a timeline that moved backwards. Thanks for bringing these symptoms to our attention.