Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer symptoms are not a normal part of aging

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

Memory problems may be one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s not the first sign for everyone. There are several other clues that Alzheimer’s disease may be developing.

Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common causes of dementia, which is a decline in thinking, remembering, reasoning and behavioral abilities to such a degree that it interferes with daily life and activities.

Most people with Alzheimer's disease are 65 and older, but Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging.

The Basics of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease that gets worse with time. The disease is characterized by plaques and tangles throughout the brain. Plaques are deposits of a protein called beta-amyloid, and tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau.

As the number of plaques and tangles increase, more brain cells are damaged and the disease gets worse.

Presently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. People older than 80 with Alzheimer's disease may die within three or four years of diagnosis, but people diagnosed at a younger age may live 10 years or more after diagnosis.

Take note and tell your doctor if you notice any of the following early signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Memory Loss

Forgetfulness and memory loss are common signs of Alzheimer’s disease. These symptoms are more common in those with early stage Alzheimer’s. People will Alzheimer's disease might forget names or dates or that certain conversations and events have occurred.

Losing Things

Consistently losing items may be another symptom of Alzheimer's. People with Alzheimer’s disease may misplace items and become unable to retrace their steps to find those lost items.

Difficulty with Familiar Tasks

People with Alzheimer’s disease may find it difficult to manage familiar tasks, such as handling money and their budget. At first, people might just take longer to complete these tasks. Eventually, they may find it hard to complete the task.

Difficulty Making Decisions

Changes in a person’s judgment or decision-making abilities are other potential early signs of Alzheimer's disease. A person with Alzheimer’s may make bad financial decisions or other unwise decisions. Alzheimer's patients may pay less attention to personal grooming and hygiene.

Losing Track

Trouble keeping track of times and dates is another early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Following familiar recipes and other familiar activities may also become more difficult for these patients.

Planning and Problem-Solving Issues

Some Alzheimer’s disease patients become unable to develop a plan and follow it through. They may be unable to take a problem and formulate an approach to solve it. Related to the problem-solving difficulties, people with Alzheimer's also may have trouble working with numbers.

Vision and Space Problems

Alzheimer’s patients can become confused when reading, determining distances or identifying a particular color. Problems judging distance and telling colors can lead to driving problems among Alzheimer's patients.

Communication Troubles

Alzheimer’s disease may affect a person’s ability to follow along in a conversation. People affected by this Alzheimer's symptom may stop in the middle of speaking or repeat themselves to remember what the conversation was about.

Personality Changes

Another possible sign of early Alzheimer’s is a change in a person’s personality or mood. People affected by early Alzheimer's may become confused, suspicious, depressed or fearful. They also may feel anxious or aggressive.


Withdrawing from social interactions and situations may be another early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Some patients may stray from social activities like sports, hobbies, work projects, get-togethers or casual interactions with other people.

What to Do if You Notice Alzheimer's Symptoms

Speak with your doctor if you show any signs of early Alzheimer's disease. Your doctor will help distinguish issues related to aging from those that may be related to Alzheimer's.

Jim McAleer, MPA, President and CEO of the Orange County Alzheimer's Association, told dailyRx News, "If you forgot your car keys every day at 20 and do so at 60, you're just forgetful. If you see a change in your memory or memory patterns, that's key and worth getting checked out."

McAleer added, "It's vitally important to get good help if you experience memory issues. Would you go to your [general practitioner] for a heart issue? No! You'd find a cardiologist." He noted that it's important to get care from someone who specializes in Alzheimer's disease when you experience memory problems that need to be evaluated.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, there are some treatments that may help maintain memory, thinking, speaking and some behavioral problems for a period of time.

Donepezil (brand name Aricept), rivastigmine (brand name Exelon) and galantamine (brand name Razadyne) are used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

Memantine (brand name Namenda) is used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. Donepezil can be also be used for severe Alzheimer's.

Review Date: 
May 23, 2014
Last Updated:
June 3, 2014