Alzheimer's Disease: Signs and Symptoms

Alzheimer's disease shares many symptoms of a normal aging process. Ability Central shares the early warning signs of AD and how you can help.

By Ability Central

14 December, 2022

A white senior man sits and looks up at a doctor who holds his hand

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. But how can you tell if the symptoms you notice are a normal part of aging or a form of dementia? In this article, Ability Central breaks down the warning signs of Alzheimer's and when to see a doctor. It will answer all of the following:

  • What are the early signs of Alzheimer's-related memory loss?
  • How does Alzheimer's affect day-to-day activities?
  • When should I be concerned about Alzheimer's-related issues?
  • Where do I go to receive an evaluation for Alzheimer's disease?

What are the early signs of Alzheimer's-related memory loss?

Memory loss is the key symptom of Alzheimer's disease. Early signs include difficulty remembering recent events or conversations. Memory loss may affect daily life as the person forgets events, repeats themselves, or relies heavily on aids such as sticky notes or reminders.

A person with Alzheimer's may initially be aware of having difficulty remembering things and organizing thoughts, but family members or friends often notice the pace at which the symptoms worsen.

Other signs of memory loss include trouble remembering recipes, manipulating numbers, or handling a budget. In addition, they may forget the rules of their favorite game or have trouble organizing a grocery list.

How does Alzheimer's affect day-to-day activities?

Early signs of Alzheimer's may include problems with day-to-day activities, like:

  • Cooking
  • Driving in a familiar location
  • Using a cell phone
  • Shopping

In addition, Alzheimer's disease may include personality changes, like:

  • Depression
  • Suspicion or distrust
  • Social withdrawal

When should I be concerned about Alzheimer's-related issues?

There is a difference between typical age-related memory issues and Alzheimer's warning signs. For example,

  • If the person forgets about an event but remembers it later, this is likely age-related memory loss rather than a sign of Alzheimer's.
  • Occasional forgetfulness or errors are normal with aging. It is only a concern if the errors are consistent or worsening.
  • Occasionally needing assistance with technology is a normal part of aging and shouldn't cause significant concern.

The critical difference between age-related memory loss and Alzheimer's disease is the rate at which memory issues worsen. For example, consider an AD evaluation when the person begins:

  • Struggling to find the right word more frequently
  • Has problems judging distance and determining color or contrast
  • Withdraws from work or social activities
  • Misplacing things without being able to retrace their steps to find it
  • Having frequent bouts with poor judgment, like falling prey to scams
  • Losing track of where they are and how they got there

Where should I seek an evaluation for Alzheimer's disease?

If Alzheimer's symptoms are interfering with life and steadily worsening, a primary care physician (PCP) is the first stop. If they suspect Alzheimer's, they will refer you to a specialist. Specialists include:

  • Geriatricians who manage health care in older adults.
  • Geriatric psychiatrists who specialize in the mental and emotional problems of older adults.
  • Neurologists who specialize in abnormalities of the brain and central nervous system.
  • Neuropsychologists who can conduct tests of memory and thinking.


Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia is a general term used to describe a loss of memory and other cognitive abilities that interfere with daily life and a person’s ability to communicate. Alzheimer's disease is a specific type of dementia that gradually worsens over time. It is a physical illness that damages the brain, leading to symptoms of dementia. While Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, there are many other types as well. However, it is important to note that not all dementia is caused by Alzheimer's disease.

Learn more about dementia. 


For additional information about Alzheimer's disease, see Ability Central's complete library of resources, including:

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