10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

BIDMC Contributor

DECEMBER 01, 2014


Memory loss that disrupts everyday life is not a normal part of aging. The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a checklist to help you recognize the difference between normal, age-related memory changes and Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s no clear line that separates normal changes from warning signs. It’s always a good idea to check with a doctor if a person’s abilities seem to be declining.

1. Memory loss

Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later. 
What’s normal? Forgetting names or appointments occasionally

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks

People with dementia often find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. Individuals may lose track of the steps involved in preparing a meal, placing a telephone call or playing a game. 
What’s normal? Occasionally forgetting why you came into a room or what you planned to say

3. Problems with language

People with Alzheimer’s disease often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. They may be unable to find the toothbrush, for example, and instead ask for “that thing for my mouth.” 
What’s normal? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word

4. Disorientation to time and place

People with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost in their own neighborhoods, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home. 
What’s normal? Forgetting the day of the week or where you were going

5. Poor or decreased judgment

Those with Alzheimer’s may dress inappropriately, wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show poor judgment about money, like giving away large sums to telemarketers. 
What’s normal? Making a questionable or debatable decision from time to time

6. Problems with abstract thinking

Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are and how they should be used. 
What’s normal? Finding it challenging to balance a checkbook

7. Misplacing things

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl. 
What’s normal? Misplacing keys or a wallet temporarily

8. Changes in mood or behavior

Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may show rapid mood swings – from calm to tears to anger – for no apparent reason. 
What’s normal? Occasionally feeling sad or moody

9. Changes in personality

The personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member. 
What’s normal? People’s personalities do change somewhat with age

10. Loss of initiative

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities. 
What’s normal? Sometimes feeling weary of work or social obligations

December 2014

Related Links


Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.