Alzheimer's disease: Ten signs and symptoms

How do you tell if and when a person's forgetfulness becomes serious and should be checked?

By Udita Madan | Last Updated: Sep 22, 2016, 00:02 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Udita Madan

New Delhi: Everyone forgets the most tiniest things in their daily lives, for example – names, tasks, an item from their grocery list and one of the most common problems, why you entered a room in the first place. But how do you tell if and when a person's forgetfulness becomes serious and should be checked?

There are many reasons for memory loss, including deficiency of vitamin B12, and brain, thyroid, kidney, or liver disorders.

However, there are several other symptoms, apart from frequent memory loss, that could be a sign of approaching Alzheimer's disease (AD). Recognizing the signs of dementia can help lead to a quicker diagnosis.

1. Mood swings and agitation:

People with AD may often seem anxious and agitated. They can appear restless, move around a lot, pace up and down, get upset in certain places or become fixated on a particular subject. Fear, confusion, fatigue, and a feeling of being overwhelmed are a few things that can result in agitation. Rapid and seemingly unprovoked mood swings for no apparent reason are another sign of dementia. A person suffering from AD can go from calm to tearful to angry without any reason.

2. Difficulty with familiar tasks:

Everyday tasks become a routine for us. But, for people with AD or dementia, completing the tasks they have been doing all their lives, may suddenly become difficult to do. For example, they may even have trouble boiling water in the kitchen.

3. Misplacing things:

If you begin to find small household things like keys, socks, remote, etc. in the most weird and unseeming places, it's possible that one of your family members is suffering from dementia. Routinely discovering other "missing" items in strange spots is usually a strong indicator of a person suffering from dementia. They will leave them in unusual places and will later be unable to retrace their steps to find them. There might also be moments when they'll become suspicious and accuse someone else of hiding or stealing their belongings.

4. Confusion with time or place:

If you have noticed a family member forgetting where you live, getting easily lost and losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time, they may be suffering from dementia. For example, you may have left the room for about an hour, but a person with dementia will think you've been gone for two weeks.

5. Communication difficulties:

Progressing dementia can hamper a person's language and communication skills. It may cause them to stop mid-conversation and not know how to continue. They may struggle to find the right word; call things by the wrong names (e.g., a car a TV); substitute unusual or incorrect words for familiar words and names (e.g., calling one's husband "him" or "that guy"); invent new words; or use familiar words over and over again.


6. Wandering:

Statistics show that approximately 60% of people with dementia have a tendency to walk off, wander aimlessly, and become lost, often repeatedly. Anxiety, confusion, stress, fear are all possible cause that can lead to their wandering tendencies. However, be prepared to receive the strangest reasons if you find a family memeber wandering outside at odd hours.

7. Aimless activities:

If you observe a family member indulging in pointless activities like opening and closing a drawer for no reason, packing and unpacking clothing, pacing, or repeating demands or questions, it could easily point towards AD.

8. Loss of recognition:

With the progress of AD, unfortunately, the person suffering from the disease may not always recognize you or other family members and friends.

9. Ignoring grooming and hygiene:

Personal hygiene and grooming habits can take a backseat for a person suffering with AD. Everyday routines like brushing teeth, regular bathing, change clothes, and even using the toilet, can be forgotten.

10. Clingy behaviour:

AD sufferers tend to become increasingly dependent and their behaviour can become extremely child-like, as the disease progresses. They may follow a certain family member around like a kid, which doctors call 'shadowing'. This is often the result of fear, stress and confusion.