10 Alzheimer's Warning Signs to Look Out For When Home for the Holidays

The Alzheimer's Association of Greater New Jersey offers a detailed list of 10 warning signs, emphasizing that early detection empowers families.

For families everywhere, the holiday season is a time to get together with extended friends and family and cherish the special time spent together. The Alzheimer’s Association Greater New Jersey Chapter reminds families that the holiday season is also a time that “can raise questions about the health of family members, cognitive health of aging family members.”

The Alzheimer’s Association has provided a list of ten warning signs with detailed descriptions to watch out for when spending time with loved ones this season. Every individual may experience one or more of the ten warning signs in different degrees. If you notice any of these signs, make sure that your loved one sees a doctor.

1) Memory loss that disrupts daily life.  One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides such as reminder notes or electronic devices, or family members for things they used to handle alone.

What's typical: Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

2) Challenges in planning or solving problems.  Watch out for changes in the ability to develop and follow a plan, or work with numbers. For example, some may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. Other warning signs include difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What's typical: Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.  People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What's typical: Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

4) Confusion with time or place:  People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What's typical: Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5) Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.

What's typical: Vision changes related to cataracts.

6) Inability to recall and articulate certain words in conversation or in writing.  People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name for example; calling a "watch" a "hand-clock."

What's typical: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7) Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.  A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What's typical: Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

8) Decreased or poor judgment.  People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What's typical: Making a bad decision once in a while.

9) Withdrawal from work or social activities.  A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What's typical: Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10) Changes in mood and personality.  People with Alzheimer's can undergo personality changes and experience changes in mood. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What's typical: Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.


The Alzheimer’s Association of Greater New Jersey Chapter explains that early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is an important step in getting appropriate treatment, care and support services.

Benefits of an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease

  • Early access to treatments that may improve symptoms and could help prolong independence
  • Give patients more time to plan for the future
  • Increase the chances of successfully finding a clinical drug trial through Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch™, helping advance research
  • Participate in decisions about their care, transportation, living options, financial and legal matters
  • Develop a relationship with doctors and care partners
  • Access to support services that help patients and families to manage the disease


About the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter

The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

It is estimated that there are currently more than 350,000 individuals and their care partners in New Jersey who are struggling to cope with the challenges of Alzheimer's disease. Headquartered in Denville with regional offices in Oradell, Princeton and Red Bank, the Alzheimer's Association offers education and training, support groups, respite care assistance, and a 24-hour, toll-free telephone Helpline. For more information about Alzheimer's disease or the Alzheimer's Association, please call 1.800.272.3900, or visit the Web site at www.alz.org/nj.

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Erica Hathway July 11, 2013 at 11:06 PM
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