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Published: Jun 29th, 2015

5 Signs of Alzheimer's That Show Up Before Memory Loss

5 Signs of Alzheimer's That Show Up Before Memory Loss
Article Updated:September 14th, 2019

UPDATED ON September 14, 2019

Memory loss is the symptom everybody starts to worry about as they get older. Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia impact many American families.  This has a huge impact on income, savings, and lifestyle. Plus, the emotional impact on loved ones is hard to calculate.

You might start forgetting things and start to think that you might be in early stages of dementia. Perhaps your loved ones mention your memory. While people do start getting early symptoms as early as in their 30s. However, you see the majority of symptoms starting in early 60s. It can be very distressing, especially if no advance plan has been put into place. 

The cost of care that a person who suffers from memory loss requires is expensive. Often families don't realize that health insurance or Medicare, including Medicaresupplements, won't pay for this care. Only Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for these services but you must have a policy in place when you enjoy good health, usually before you retire. 

Sometimes, according to memory experts, even doctors miss early dementia signs because they're focused on memory loss to the exclusion of other symptoms. In fact, in 2011 Spanish researchers found that more than a third of adults who go on to develop early-onset Alzheimer's (the kind that appears before age 65) have the following symptoms early in the disease, even before memory loss is apparent. These symptoms can also be the first to appear among adults who develop Alzheimer's after age 65.

Of course, if you notice any of these symptoms, it's important to have them checked out by a doctor, psychologist, or another expert in cognition and the brain. Sometimes it is NOT dementia but another health issue or medication which is causing your dementia symptoms.

Paula Spencer Scott, contributing editor, wrote these five signs you and your family should pay attention to:

Early sign of dementia #1: Personality change

A warm, friendly loved one may seem to morph into a bit of a grouch -- at first occasionally, and then increasingly. A gregarious person still jokes and talks a lot but begins to say inappropriate things or make odd accusations. A mild-mannered loved one begins cursing. All of these are examples of the kinds of personality changes that can predate memory loss in someone with dementia. Often, it's only later that friends and family look back and realize that behaviors they found off-putting or upsetting weren't intentional but related to the Alzheimer's.

Early sign of dementia #2: Problems with executive functioning

Trouble carrying out basic, familiar tasks can creep up slowly but surely. The person may, for example, have difficulty doing something that involves multiple steps, like following written directions or instructions. A longtime cook may avoid complicated recipes. A hobbyist may simplify the form of his or her craft.

Other hallmark trouble areas: making plans and not following through, whether for a vacation or an activity. Not tracking bills. Not being able to solve simple problems, such as mending a broken piece of machinery he or she could once fix easily.

Early sign of dementia #3: Vision problems

Problems with depth perception or visual-spatial coordination can precede memory problems. The person may have trouble driving or even walking well without tripping on stairs. It can be hard to judge distances or see contrasts between like colors, which can lead to accidents. In a more severe example of a perception problem, the person may not recognize himself or herself in a mirror or when passing his or her reflection in a building or window on the street.

Early sign of dementia #4: Language problems

Word retrieval and getting out the right words can become apparent before friends and family notice the more common communication problem of repeating stories or questions. For example, the person having trouble may stop in the middle of a sentence, unable to think of the next word. (This can happen to anyone, but when it's a sign of dementia, it happens with alarming frequency, and sometimes the person isn't even aware of doing it.) Or the wrong word may come out -- "mouth cleaner" for "toothbrush" or "picture stick" for "TV remote control."

Early sign of dementia #5: Social withdrawal

Early in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, the person is often well aware that something is amiss, even if he or she isn't exactly sure of the source of the problem. It can be frightening to feel that you're not quite in control of your faculties all of the time. This can cause the person to use more and more energy to stay in self-command. That leaves less energy to interact with others. Sometimes the person isn't even aware that he or she seems to be losing interest in friends and family, because he or she is concentrating so hard on just getting through the day.

Social withdrawal can also be caused by a desire to avoid embarrassment or by depression -- which often develops alongside dementia.