Does this sound familiar? You meet someone at a party, only to forget the person’s name within minutes. You laugh it off and ask his or her name again.

But sometimes, especially if you’re older, you may wonder if your forgetfulness is really an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. It affects 1 in 10 Americans age 65 and older, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That number is expected to increase as the number of Americans age 65 and older reaches about 88 million by 2050.

Alzheimer’s ranges from the mildest stage, when it just starts to affect a person’s mind, to the most severe stage, when the person can’t do basic tasks. There’s no cure, but doctors can slow the disease’s progression if it is caught early.

So how can you tell if you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s? The Alzheimer’s Association has a list of 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s compared with typical age-related behavior.

Here are a few signs of the disease and normal age-related changes. 

Memory loss disrupts daily life. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Other signs include forgetting important dates or events, asking again and again for the same information, and needing to rely often on notes or family members for information.

Typical age-related change: Forgetting names or appointments occasionally, but remembering them later.

Difficulty completing familiar tasks. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble doing something they’ve done many times before. Examples include not knowing how to drive to a familiar location, manage a budget at work or remember the rules of a favorite game.

Typical age-related change: Occasionally needing help with technology, such as recording a TV show.

Confusion with time or place. Alzheimer’s patients can lose track of dates, seasons and time. They may have trouble understanding something that isn’t happening now, or forget where they are and how they got there.

Typical age-related change: Mixing up the days of the week but realizing it later.

Difficulty with words when speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s struggle in conversation. They may stop and have no idea how to continue. They may repeat themselves. They may be unable to find the right word or call things by the wrong name.

Typical age-related change: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.


Take action early.

If you notice any of these warning signs of Alzheimer’s, be sure to contact your doctor immediately. If you notice them in someone else, encourage that person to speak with a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can help preserve daily functioning longer. It can also give you an opportunity to explore treatment options and plan for long-term care.