Return to site

I can’t remember-10 early signs of Alzheimer’s

Dr Henriette Smith November 2017

· Mind

Do Memory Problems Always Mean Alzheimer's Disease?

You can't find your keys or you forget an appointment. For many people in middle age or older, simple acts of forgetfulness like these are scary because they raise the specter of Alzheimer's disease. But not all people with memory problems have Alzheimer's.

Forgetfulness — 7 types of normal memory problems

Healthy people can experience memory loss too

It's normal to forget things from time to time, and it's normal to become somewhat more forgetful as you age. But how much forgetfulness is too much? How can you tell whether your memory lapses is normal forgetfulness and within the scope of normal aging or are a symptom of something more serious?

Healthy people can experience memory loss or memory distortion at any age. Some of these memory flaws become more pronounced with age, but — unless they are extreme and persistent — they are not considered indicators of Alzheimer's or other memory-impairing illnesses.

Seven normal memory problems

1. Transience

This is the tendency to forget facts or events over time. You are most likely to forget information soon after you learn it. However, memory has a use-it-or-lose-it quality: memories that are called up and used frequently are least likely to be forgotten. Although transience might seem like a sign of memory weakness, brain scientists regard it as beneficial because it clears the brain of unused memories, making way for newer, more useful ones.

2. Absentmindedness

This type of forgetting occurs when you don't pay close enough attention. You forget where you just put your pen because you didn't focus on where you put it in the first place. You were thinking of something else (or, perhaps, nothing in particular), so your brain didn't encode the information securely. Absentmindedness also involves forgetting to do something at a prescribed time, like taking your medicine or keeping an appointment.

3. Blocking

Someone asks you a question and the answer is right on the tip of your tongue — you know that you know it, but you just can't think of it. This is perhaps the most familiar example of blocking, the temporary inability to retrieve a memory. In many cases, the barrier is a memory similar to the one you're looking for, and you retrieve the wrong one. This competing memory is so intrusive that you can't think of the memory you want.

Scientists think that memory blocks become more common with age and that they account for the trouble older people have remembering other people's names. Research shows that people are able to retrieve about half of the blocked memories within just a minute.

4. Misattribution

Misattribution occurs when you remember something accurately in part, but misattribute some detail, like the time, place, or person involved. Another kind of misattribution occurs when you believe a thought you had was totally original when, in fact, it came from something you had previously read or heard but had forgotten about. This sort of misattribution explains cases of unintentional plagiarism, in which a writer passes off some information as original when he or she actually read it somewhere before.

As with several other kinds of memory lapses, misattribution becomes more common with age. As you age, you absorb fewer details when acquiring information because you have somewhat more trouble concentrating and processing information rapidly. And as you grow older, your memories grow older as well. And old memories are especially prone to misattribution.

5. Suggestibility

Suggestibility is the vulnerability of your memory to the power of suggestion — information that you learn about an occurrence after the fact becomes incorporated into your memory of the incident, even though you did not experience these details. Although little is known about exactly how suggestibility works in the brain, the suggestion fools your mind into thinking it's a real memory.

6. Bias

Even the sharpest memory isn't a flawless snapshot of reality. In your memory, your perceptions are filtered by your personal biases — experiences, beliefs, prior knowledge, and even your mood at the moment. Your biases affect your perceptions and experiences when they're being encoded in your brain. And when you retrieve a memory, your mood and other biases at that moment can influence what information you actually recall.

Although everyone's attitudes and preconceived notions bias their memories, there's been virtually no research on the brain mechanisms behind memory bias or whether it becomes more common with age.

7. Persistence

Most people worry about forgetting things. But in some cases people are tormented by memories they wish they could forget, but can't. The persistence of memories of traumatic events, negative feelings, and ongoing fears is another form of memory problem. Some of these memories accurately reflect horrifying events, while others may be negative distortions of reality.

People suffering from depression are particularly prone to having persistent, disturbing memories. So are people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can result from many different forms of traumatic exposure — for example, sexual abuse or wartime experiences. Flashbacks, which are persistent, intrusive memories of the traumatic event, are a core feature of PTSD.

Reversible causes of memory loss

Many medical problems can cause memory loss or other dementia-like symptoms. Most of these conditions can be treated. Your doctor can screen you for conditions that cause reversible memory impairment.

Possible causes of reversible memory loss include:

  • Medications. Certain medications or a combination of medications can cause forgetfulness or confusion. Memory loss could be a sign that your medication needs to be adjusted. Several types of drugs can affect memory, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including:
  • sleeping pills
  • antihistamines
  • anti-anxiety medications
  • antidepressants
  • certain painkillers
  • cholesterol-lowering medication
  • diabetes medication
  • Minor head trauma or injury. A head injury from a fall or accident — even if you don't lose consciousness — can cause memory problems.
  • Emotional disorders. Stress, anxiety or depression can cause forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities.
  • Alcoholism. Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol can also cause memory loss by interacting with medications.
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. A vitamin B-12 deficiency — common in older adults — can cause memory problems.
  • Hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can result in forgetfulness and other thinking problems.
  • Brain diseases. A tumor or infection in the brain can cause memory problems or other dementia-like symptoms.
  • Sleep apnea. When not treated, sleep apnea affects spatial navigational memory. This type of memory includes being able to remember directions or where you put things like your keys. The research suggests that deep sleep, also known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, plays an important role in memory.

10 warning signs of Alzheimers

  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; increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What's a typical age-related change? 
Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

  1. Challenges in planning or solving problems

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
What's a typical age-related change? 
Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

  1. 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 a typical age-related change? 
Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

  1. 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 a typical age-related change?
Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

  1. 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, which may cause problems with driving.
What's a typical age-related change? 
Vision changes related to cataracts.

  1. New problems with words in speaking or 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 (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock").
What's a typical age-related change? 
Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

  1. 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 a typical age-related change? 
Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.

  1. 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 a typical age-related change? 
Making a bad decision once in a while.

  1. 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 a typical age-related change? 
Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

  1. Changes in mood and personality

The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. 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 a typical age-related change? 
Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

What to do if you notice these signs

If you notice any of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's in yourself or someone you know, don't ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.

With early detection, you can:

Get the maximum benefit from available treatments – You can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer.

Have more time to plan for the future – A diagnosis of Alzheimer's allows you to take part in decisions about care, transportation, living options, financial and legal matters. You can also participate in building the right care team and social support network.

Help for you and your loved ones – Care and support services are available, making it easier for you and your family to live the best life possible with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

References:

  1. https://www.shutterstock.com/search/alzheimer
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/forgetfulness-7-types-of-normal-memory-problems
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/memory-loss/art-20046326?pg=2
  4. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/5-surprising-causes-memory-loss/
  5. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asp
  6. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/age-related-memory-loss.htm
  7. http://www.caregivercards.biz/component/k2/an-alzheimer-s-dementia-prayer?showall=1
  8. http://kanecountyconnects.com/2016/11/hampshire-township-offers-free-alzheimers-workshop/
  9. https://za.pinterest.com/alznebraska/about-alzheimers/

 

This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.

All Posts
×

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!

OKSubscriptions powered by Strikingly

This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.