Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly. Recognizing its early symptoms is crucial and allows doctors to begin treatment before the symptoms become worse.

Alzheimer's warning signs

1. Memory Loss

Forgetting things sometimes is normal;

memory loss is NOT normal when it repeatedly interferes with daily life

What to watch for:

• Forgetting newly acquired information, like recent events or conversations

• Asking the same questions repeatedly

• Tendency to misplace or lose items

• Problems remembering the month or day of the week

2. Problems with perception

• Getting lost while driving or in well-known places

• Not recognizing familiar faces

3. Language difficulties

• Forgetting simple words or using words incorrectly

• Difficulty understanding speech

4. Confused thinking

• Problems with counting or simple calculations

• Poor judgment and decisionmaking

• Lack of concern for personal safety

5. Poor planning & organization

• Problems managing finances

• No motivation for simple tasks like shopping or cooking

• Neglecting personal hygiene and nutrition

6. Mood swings or personality changes

• Rapid and extreme mood swings

• Withdrawal from social situations, depressed mood, or apathy

• Difficult behaviors become more common as Alzheimer's progresses

What should you do if you encounter an adult who seems lost or confused?

6 out of 10 adults with Alzheimer's wander away from their caregivers and may put themselves in harm's way. If you meet someone who has signs of Alzheimer's, they may be disoriented and confused.

SOURCES: Memory and Aging Center, UCSF Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (2008). Alzheimer's Disease (AD) Educational Information. Retrieved from memory.ucsf.edu/Education. National Institute on Aging (2008). Forgetfulness: It's Not Always What You Think. Retrieved from www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation. Alzheimer's Association (2008). Warning Signs of Alzheimer's. Retrieved from www.alz.org. Alzheimer's Association (2008). Tips for When You Encounter a Person with Dementia. Retrieved from www.alz.org.