Memory loss is often the most common and noticeable symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In some cases, family members may notice other signs that occur before memory loss becomes apparent.
If your parent is not experiencing memory loss, that doesn’t mean you can disregard Alzheimer’s as a possibility. Read more about receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis without memory loss and what steps to take after the diagnosis.
Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms
The Alzheimer’s Association cites nine additional early signs and symptoms of the disease for families to watch out for:
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Changes in mood and personality
- Confusion with place or time
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps to find them
- Problems with words
- Trouble understanding spatial relationships and visual images
- Withdrawing from work or other activities
Exhibiting one or more of these signs does not necessarily mean someone has Alzheimer’s, but it does warrant a visit to your doctor.
“The warning signs for Alzheimer’s can be warning signs for other conditions as well — some of which may be treatable,” says Ruth Drew, Director of Information and Support Services at the Alzheimer’s Association.
“It’s important to see your doctor and get a diagnosis so you know what you’re dealing with and can take steps to address it.”
Having the Conversation About an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
It’s also important to have early conversations about Alzheimer’s whenever family members observe potential warning signs. However, many family members are reluctant to broach the discussion because it’s a difficult subject.
An Alzheimer’s Association survey found a majority of Americans would be concerned about offending a family member (76%) or ruining their relationship (69%) if they were to approach the individual about observed signs of Alzheimer’s. Thirty-eight percent said they would wait until a family member’s symptoms had worsened before bringing up the subject, while 29% said they wouldn’t bring the subject up at all despite their concerns.
“Unfortunately, people often avoid conversations due to anxiety, denial, fear, lack of awareness and difficulty having hard conversations about health issues, particularly with Alzheimer’s or other dementias due to stigma and perceptions associated with the disease,” says Drew.
6 Tips That Will Help
Because these conversations can be so difficult to initiate, the association offers these six tips for talking about Alzheimer’s and an Alzheimer’s diagnosis with someone who may be experiencing symptoms:
- Anticipate gaps in self-awareness, since it’s difficult for family members to recognize some signs themselves.
- Have the conversation as early as possible, ideally before the signs ever occur.
- Offer companionship and support, such as a pledge to go along on a doctor’s appointment.
- Practice conversation starters, such as “Would you want me to say something if I ever noticed any changes in your behavior that worried me?”
- Recognize the conversation may not go as planned, so regroup and try again at a later time.
- Think about who’s best suited to have the conversation, such as a specific family member, friend, or trusted advisor.
“These tips are aimed at making a discussion about an Alzheimer’s diagnosis less daunting and more productive,” says Drew. The goal is to facilitate an early diagnosis — whether memory loss is present or not — so that the family member has access to more effective medical and lifestyle interventions and a better opportunity prepare for the future.
About the Author
Diane Franklin is a freelance writer and editor who writes regularly about senior living and healthcare. She has also written hundreds of articles for business and trade publications, including leading magazines for the credit union and retail paint industries.
Have you observed any of these signs of Alzheimer’s in family members? How have you dealt with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis? Share your stories with us in the comments below.