Last Updated: March 17, 2015
Some change in memory is normal as we grow older, but the
symptoms of Alzheimer's
disease are more than simple lapses in memory.
People with Alzheimer's experience difficulties communicating,
learning, thinking and reasoning - problems severe enough to have
an impact on an individual's work, social activities and family
The Alzheimer's Association has developed a checklist of common
symptoms to help you recognize the difference between normal
age-related memory changes and possible warning signs of
There's no clear-cut line between normal changes and warning
signs. It's always a good idea to check with a doctor if a person's
level of function seems to be changing. The Alzheimer's Association
believes that it is critical for people diagnosed with dementia and
their families to receive information, care and
support as early as possible.
Early Warning Signs
- Memory Loss
Forgetting new information is one of the most common early signs
of dementia. General memory
loss and forgetting important events and asking for the same
information over and over are also common symptoms of early stage
Alzheimer's disease. What's typical? Forgetting names or
appointments occasionally and remembering them later.
- Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks
People with dementia
often find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. Individuals
may lose track of the steps involved in preparing a meal, placing a
telephone call or playing a game. What's typical?
Occasionally forgetting why you came into a room or what you
planned to say.
- New Problems with Writing or Speaking
People with Alzheimer's disease often forget simple words or
substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to
understand. They may be unable to find the toothbrush, for example,
and instead ask for "that thing for my mouth." What's
typical? Sometimes having trouble finding the right
- Confusion with Time and Place
People with Alzheimer's disease can become lost in their own
neighborhood, forget where they are and how they got there, and not
know how to get back home. What's typical? Forgetting the
day of the week or where you were going.
- Poor or Decreased Judgment
Those with Alzheimer's may dress inappropriately, wearing several
layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show
poor judgment, like giving away large sums of money to
telemarketers. What's typical? Making a questionable or
debatable decision from time to time.
- Problems with Abstract Thinking
Someone with Alzheimer's disease may have unusual difficulty
performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are
for and how they should be used. What's typical? Finding
it challenging to balance a checkbook.
- Misplacing Things and Losing the
Ability to Retrace Steps
A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual
places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
What's typical? Misplacing keys or a wallet, but being
able to retrace steps to find it later.
- Changes in Mood or Behavior
Someone with Alzheimer's disease may show rapid mood swings - from
calm to tears to anger and aggression
- for no apparent reason. They may become extremely confused,
anxious, suspicious or dependent on a family member. What's
typical? Occasionally feeling sad or moody.
- Trouble Understanding Visual Images and Spatial
For some people, a change in visual processing may be a sign of
early Alzheimer's disease. They may have difficulty reading,
judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause
problems with driving. What's typical? Vision changes
related to cataracts.
- Withdrawing from Social Activities
A person with early stage Alzheimer's disease may avoid being
social because of the changes they've experienced. They may remove
themselves from sports, social events and hobbies. They may become
passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than
usual or not want to perform daily living activities. What's
typical? Sometimes feeling weary of work or social
The difference between Alzheimer's and normal age-related memory
||Normal Age-related Memory
Forgets entire experiences
Forgets part of an experience
Rarely remembers later
Often remembers later
Is gradually unable to follow written/spoken directions
Is usually able to follow written/spoken directions
Is gradually unable to use notes as reminders
Is usually able to use notes as reminders
Is gradually unable to care for self
Is usually able to care for self