Can You See the Warning Signs of Dementia?

Warning signs of dementia

Early detection matters! Talk with your doctor right away if you think you are seeing the warning signs of dementia.

My mom lives alone now. While we were visiting her the other day, she told us she had forgotten where she put her keys and locked herself out of her house. Then, while we were making dinner, I noticed she was having trouble following a recipe for a dish we make every time we get together. My husband helps her with her bills. On our way home from Mom’s house, he mentioned that she hasn’t been keeping track of her monthly bills very well at all. We’re wondering if these are typical age-related changes or early warning signs of dementia.

Dementia Statistics

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Sixty to eighty percent of dementia cases are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
  • Every 66 seconds someone develops the disease
  • One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia
  • Since the year 2000, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 14% while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 89%
  • It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined

This year there are an estimated 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s dementia.

  • Ten percent of people age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s dementia.
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
  • African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.
  • Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites.

And the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is growing fast. Because the number of people age 65 and older in the United States is growing, the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to soar. Today, every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s dementia. But by mid-century, this is expected to increase to someone developing the disease every 33 seconds.

What are the Warning Signs of Dementia?

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills so memory loss that disrupts daily life may be the first warning sign. There are ten warning signs and symptoms to look for and be aware of. Since everyone is different, individuals may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees. If you think you’re seeing any of them in a loved one or in yourself, visit your doctor right away.

  1. Memory loss disrupts daily life

Memory loss is the most common sign of Alzheimer’s.

  • Forgetting recently learned information, important dates or events
  • Asking for the same information over and over
  • Needing to rely on reminder notes or electronic devices or family members for things they used to handle on their own

Forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later is not a warning sign.

  1. Planning or solving problems is challenging

Working with numbers or developing and following a plan may be challenging with Alzheimer’s. Following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills is difficult now when it didn’t use to be. Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook is an age-related change and not one of the warning signs of dementia.

  1. Familiar tasks at home, work or leisure are difficult to complete

This warning sign is somewhat similar to number 2. But people with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks such as driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game. Needing help to use the settings on a cell phone or recording a program on the TV is not a warning sign.

  1. Dates, seasons and the passing of time are confusing

Someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s may have trouble understanding something if it isn’t happening right then. They can forget where they are or how they got there. An age-related change is getting confused about which day of the week it is but figuring it out later.

  1. Reading, judging distance, and determining color or contrast is difficult

Vision problems are a sign of Alzheimer’s for some people and may cause problems with driving. Vision problems caused by cataracts, for example, are age-related, not a warning sign for Alzheimer’s.

  1. Following or joining a conversation is troublesome

Someone with Alzheimer’s may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue. They may also repeat themselves and struggle with finding the right word. For example, they may call a watch a hand-clock. Many of us have trouble finding the right word sometimes, but if these symptoms happen often, it could be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s.

  1. Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps

Putting things in unusual places is common for someone who has Alzheimer’s. They may accuse others of stealing when they lose something and cannot retrace their steps to find it again. If this happens more frequently over time, check with your doctor for the possibility of Alzheimer’s. Again, everyone loses things from time to time, but since they are able to retrace their steps to find them, they aren’t displaying one of the warning signs of dementia.

  1. Poor judgment and a lack of self-care is a regular occurrence

Those who have Alzheimer’s are less attentive to proper grooming and cleanliness. They may show poor judgment with money by giving large sums to telemarketers or falling prey to scams. Making a bad decision every once in a while is an age-related change, but when this happens repeatedly, it could be a warning sign.

  1. Avoiding social activities

When someone has Alzheimer’s, they may withdraw from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. Because they are having trouble keeping up with their favorite team or remembering how to actually do a favorite hobby, they may avoid being social. With age-related changes, we grow weary of work, family, and social obligations at times. But if we withdraw for a short time, we’re usually ready to socialize once again. Taking a break from obligations for a short time is not a warning sign.

  1. Changing moods and personalities

When a loved one with Alzheimer’s is out of their comfort zone, they can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, anxious, or easily upset. As we age, we develop routines and enjoy our specific ways of doing things. When a routine is disrupted, we can become irritated, but this doesn’t mean we have Alzheimer’s.

If You Notice Warning Signs

Early detection matters! If you notice any of the warning signs mentioned above in yourself or someone you know and love, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. Early detection allows you to:

  • Get the most benefit from the treatments available for Alzheimer’s patients
  • Explore treatments that provide relief of symptoms
  • Help you maintain your independence longer
  • Increase your chances of participating in drug trials that help advance research

Be Prepared for the Changes Alzheimer’s Brings

We need to be more proactive, make ourselves aware of the warning signs of dementia, and pay attention. Don’t brush it aside when your loved one tells you they lost their car keys or locked themselves out of their house. Dementia is progressive and our seniors need us. What if your loved one lives alone or in another state? It is best to know and understand what dementia is and what the warning signs of dementia are before your loved one is clearly in trouble.

Charles’ family like so many others has been affected by this terrible disease, and it is very difficult on all dealing with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s. The book “The 36-Hour Day” will help with understanding and dealing with this disease. If you think you may be seeing the warning signs of dementia, talk with an elder care lawyer, attorney, or broker about dementia and how you can help your loved one if and when dementia strikes.


Charles D’Alessandro

Your Brooklyn Real Estate Agent with Fillmore Real Estate

718-253-9600 ext 206

[email protected]

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