Warning Signs

blue eye ladyAs you age, some forgetting is natural and inevitable. At what point should you consider the occasional memory lapse to be something more serious?

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include loss of memory, difficulty with day-to-day tasks, and changes in mood and behaviour. People may think these symptoms are part of normal aging, but they aren’t.

10 Symptoms and Strategies videos

Click here to watch a series of videos about Faye, Anne and Sandra, three remarkable Nova Scotia women with early stage dementia, and hear them discuss their symptoms and the strategies they use to live well with dementia.

10 Warning Signs

To help you know what warning signs to look for, the Alzheimer Society has developed the following list of 10 warning signs:

gentlemen1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day function

It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments, colleagues’ names or a friend’s phone number and remember them later. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may forget things more often and not remember them later, especially things that have happened more recently.

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks

Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may leave the carrots on the stove and only remember to serve them at the end of a meal. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble with tasks that have been familiar to them all their lives, such as preparing a meal.

3. Problems with language

Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s disease may forget simple words or substitute words, making her sentences difficult to understand.

4. Disorientation of time and place

It’s normal to forget the day of the week or your destination – for a moment. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home.

5. Poor or decreased judgment

People may sometimes put off going to a doctor if they have an infection, but eventually seek medical attention. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have decreased judgment, for example not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.

6. Problems with abstract thinking

From time to time, people may have difficulty with tasks that require abstract thinking, such as balancing a chequebook. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have significant difficulties with such tasks, for example not recognizing what the numbers in the chequebook mean.

7. Misplacing things

Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in inappropriate places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

8. Changes in mood and behaviour

Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can exhibit varied mood swings – from calm to tears to anger – for no apparent reason.

9. Changes in personality

People’s personalities can change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn. Changes may also include apathy, fearfulness or acting out of character.

10. Loss of initiative

It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, and require cues and prompting to become involved.

Again – if you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor!

Normal Aging vs Dementia Aging

Mental faculties that can decline with age:

  • remembering people’s names
  • recalling facts and words
  • recalling where you heard something and/or who told you
  • remembering the location of household objects
  • recalling events from recent past
  • the ability to multi-task
  • reaction time

Mental faculties that do not have to decline with age:

  • vocabulary
  • decision-making
  • creativity
  • ability to learn
  • word generation – being fluent and able to use language
  • paired associate learning (a test of how well new information is remembered.)

It is important to see a doctor when you notice any of these symptoms as they may be due to other conditions such as depression, drug interactions or an infection. If the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer Society can help.

If the symptoms are not treatable and progress over time, they may be due to damage to the nerve cells in the brain. If that’s the case, getting an early diagnosis is critical for you and your family, to ensure you and your care partners can get the support needed to maintain quality of life. Learn more about normal aging vs dementia aging.


10 Symptoms and Strategies videos
10 Symptoms and Strategies videos

Watch videos of three remarkable Nova Scotia women with early stage dementia, and hear them discuss how they live well with dementia.

Read More
Normal Aging Versus Dementia
Normal Aging Versus Dementia

Age-Associated Memory Impairment can be distinguished from a brain disorder such as Alzheimer’s in a variety of ways.

Read More
Risk Factors
Risk Factors

Risk factors are characteristics of the person, their lifestyle and environment that contribute to the likelihood of getting the disease.

Read More
Getting a Diagnosis
Getting a Diagnosis

Diagnosing dementia is a complex and difficult process, requiring the time and expertise of skilled practitioners.

Read More
Treatment Options
Treatment Options

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease and no treatment that will stop its progression. Several drugs are available that can help with some symptoms.

Read More