Early Warning Signs: Is a Change in Personality a Symptom of Alzheimer's?

Sunrise Senior Living  |  February 21, 2019

Some early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease aren’t as obvious as others. While many people associate Alzheimer’s with forgetfulness and confusion, other signs of the disease are easier to overlook. A change in behavior is one.

If a previously easygoing senior is now quick to anger or easily agitated, it’s probably something to discuss with a physician. While it might be caused by an infection or vitamin deficiency that can be remedied with medical intervention, it could also be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

7 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Here are a few changes that should be discussed with the senior’s primary care physician:

  1. Memory loss: We all forget things from time to time. When forgetfulness impacts daily life, however, it might be a sign that something is amiss. Document your loved one’s memory loss—what they are forgetting and how often—and share the information with their physician.
  2. Self-isolation: Another red flag is when an older adult begins to withdraw from favorite hobbies, social activities, religious services, and family gatherings. It’s often because the senior is embarrassed that they can’t remember friends’ names or has difficulty carrying on a conversation. Staying home feels easier and safer.
  3. Paranoia: Adults in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease might experience episodes of paranoia. They might think even those closest to them are stealing from them. For families, the accusations can be devastating. If an older loved one has become overly suspicious, they likely require a medical assessment.
  4. Hygiene change: If an older adult has always been neat and tidy in their appearance, a decline in hygiene might be a sign of a struggle. Some seniors might be afraid of falling, so they avoid showering often. It’s also possible that they have developed a fear of water, which is common among people with Alzheimer’s.
  5. Abstract thought: A decline in abstract thought is another early sign of Alzheimer’s. Your loved one might be having problems writing out checks or following a recipe. Or they could be struggling to figure out how to use a washer and dryer they’ve owned for years. Multistep activities become more difficult as Alzheimer’s progresses.
  6. Misplacing belongings: If your senior loved one has developed a pattern of placing things in odd locations or misplacing belongings entirely, it can be a sign of Alzheimer’s-related memory loss. A healthy adult might lose the car keys but be able to re-trace their steps to find them. Not being able to remember where they were, though, could be a sign of Alzheimer’s.
  7. Personality change: Mood swings, tearfulness, agitation, and aggression can also be personality changes caused by Alzheimer’s disease. While there are other potential causes, these kinds of changes need to be addressed with a physician.

Memory Care at Sunrise

Environment can play a big role in helping an adult with Alzheimer’s feel safe and empowered. It’s something we do well in the Reminiscence Neighborhoods at Sunrise Senior Living communities. From our experienced caregivers to our dedicated dining programs, we encourage you to visit the Sunrise community nearest you to learn more about memory care.

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