10 Alzheimer’s or Dementia Warning Signs and Symptoms to Watch For
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills can start an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis. Sometimes the diagnosis is missed though if a physician fails to seek further medical opinions or perform the right tests. The Association provides ten early signs and symptoms that family members can watch out for and a brief overview of what conditions are commonly diagnosed in place of Alzheimer’s or dementias.
- Noticeable Memory Loss
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information such as important dates or events, asking the same questions over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on others for help in recalling facts, people, or routines.
- Challenges in Planning or Solving Problems
Some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to concentrate and follow a plan or work with numbers like keeping track of monthly expenses or follow the speed limit when driving.
- Difficulty with Everyday Tasks
People with Alzheimer’s or dementia often find it hard to complete daily tasks such as grocery shopping and banking, picking out their clothing, or remembering to turn off the stove after using it.
- General Confusion Over Times or Places
People living with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons, and important events like holidays or appointments. And sometimes they have trouble understanding where they are, why they are there, or how they got there.
- Trouble Understanding the Meaning of Icons and Cues
For some people with brain disorders, vision problems arise leading to difficulty with balance or trouble reading signs. Many may also have growing impatience with understanding everyday traffic signals. This can cause safety issues, such as wandering within communities they are not familiar with.
- Noticeable Trouble with Words
This includes confusion with writing or following or joining a conversation. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object, or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a “spoon” a “fork”).
- Misplacing Items and Forgetfulness About Where They Could Have Gone
They may lose things, put them in unusual places, or be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. He or she may accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses.
- Decreased or Poor Judgment
Individuals may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor discretion when dealing with money or pay less attention to eating, grooming, or keeping vital information and items safe.
- Withdrawal from Regular Activities
A person living with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation. They may withdraw from or find it difficult to engage with planned family activities and celebrations, or even work.
- Changes in Mood and Personality
Mood and personality changes can happen to someone with early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia. They can quickly become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, overly excited, or anxious. And just as easily upset when feeling safe at home and with friends or family.
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease and brain diseases are often misdiagnosed, causing undue emotional and financial stress for family members, and delays in treatment for others.
A Doctor Can Provide an Alzheimer’s or Dementia Diagnosis
While there is no single test to tell if a person has Alzheimer’s disease or dementias, doctors and specialists such as neurologists and psychiatrists, may collectively diagnosis after a thorough review of a person’s medical history, mental status and laboratory tests, brain imaging and neurological exams, and several other diagnostic procedures to assess overall health. Sometimes though, they don’t get it right, and instead patients are left to struggle even more with declining cognitive health or, worse – the wrong diagnosis.
A misdiagnosis may be depression, anxiety, untreated sleep apnea, delirium, side effects of medications, thyroid problems, and impairments not related to brain disorders and memory or thinking. Symptoms may worsen over time and start to affect a person’s:
- coordination, reflexes, muscle tone and strength
- loss of interest in life
- overall health
A misdiagnosis may also put them at higher risk for other diseases and create overburdened stress on caregivers.
When any of the signs and symptoms listed previously become prevalent, a physician should evaluate and test for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, and order more tests such as a brain imaging study, or recommend a second opinion from a specialist.
Two standard tests include:
- Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE): During the MMSE, a health professional asks a patient a series of questions designed to test a range of everyday mental skills. On average, the MMSE score of a person with Alzheimer’s declines about two to four points each year.
- Mini-Cog Test: During the Mini-Cog, a person is asked to complete two tasks like told to remember three things and a few minutes later repeat the names of those shared objects. Another job would be to draw a clock face showing all 12 numbers in the right places and a time specified by the test facilitator.
In addition to the MMSE and Mini-Cog, other computer-based tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are used for cognitive testing.
- Cantab Mobile
- Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (ANAM)
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics found that diagnostic errors may affect as many as 12 million – or one out of every 20 – American adults. When you depend on a doctor to provide an evaluation and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia is not provided, and symptoms have continued to worsen over time, your loved one may have been misdiagnosed. You may need to request more tests, and seek a second opinion, especially if being sent home and are confused about follow-up care.
Attorneys for Individuals & Families Affected by Alzheimer’s and Dementia
For more than 20 years, the dementia and Alzheimer’s lawyers at Levin & Perconti have helped people in Illinois and Chicago who are seeking answers about a brain or memory misdiagnosis that has resulted in a loved one being seriously injured or killed. Our consultations are always FREE, confidential, and handled by one of our skilled attorneys. The call is toll-free at 877-374-1417 or reach out to us in Chicago at 312-332-2872.