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Health Topics - A Carer's Story

Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

If I Only Knew Then - What I Know Now!

Jacqueline Marcell tells her story of caring for her parents. Her situation is one that may be familiar to readers and highlights some of the difficulties facing carers when caring for a loved one with memory loss. We have included the link to this thought-provoking story for your interest and we acknowledge that every caring situation is extremely varied, as is the support and person being cared for. Jacqueline talks about Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease that would have helped her immensely if she had know about them earlier on in the care of her parents.

Jacqueline is based in America so not all the information will be as relevant to New Zealanders.

Jacqueline Marcell is a former college professor and television executive, who after the experience of caring for her elderly parents became an author, publisher, radio host, national speaker, and advocate for eldercare awareness and reform. She wrote the bestseller, Elder Rage, or Take My Father... Please! How to Survive Caring For Aging Parents, a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, which is being considered for a feature film.

For more information see:

You can view further information on the links below, also try the Carers New Zealand website for support, advice and information that may help you in the caring role, and the links provided on the Memory Loss and Dementia page of this website.

Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease
By Jacqueline Marcell, Author, Elder Rage

  1. Memory loss. One of the most common early signs of dementia is forgetting recently learned information. While it's normal to forget appointments, names, or telephone numbers, those with dementia will forget such things more often and not remember them later.
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks. People with dementia often find it hard to complete everyday tasks that are so familiar we usually do not think about how to do them. A person with Alzheimer's may not know the steps for preparing a meal, using a household appliance, or participating in a lifelong hobby.
  3. Problems with language. Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer's disease often forgets simple words or substitutes unusual words, making his or her speech or writing hard to understand. If a person with Alzheimer's is unable to find his or her toothbrush, for example, the individual may ask for "that thing for my mouth."
  4. Disorientation to time and place. It's normal to forget the day of the week or where you're going. But people with Alzheimer's disease can become lost on their own street, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.
  5. Poor or decreased judgment. No one has perfect judgment all of the time. Those with Alzheimer's may dress without regard to the weather, wearing several shirts or blouses on a warm day or very little clothing in cold weather. Individuals with dementia often show poor judgment about money, giving away large amounts of money to telemarketers or paying for home repairs or products they don't need.
  6. Problems with abstract thinking. Balancing a checkbook may be hard when the task is more complicated than usual. Someone with Alzheimer's disease could forget completely what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them.
  7. Misplacing things. Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or key. A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
  8. Changes in mood or behaviour. Everyone can become sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer's disease can show rapid mood swings-from calm to tears to anger-for no apparent reason.
  9. Changes in personality. People's personalities ordinarily change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer's disease can change a lot, becoming extremely confused, suspicious, fearful, or dependent on a family member.
  10. Loss of initiative. It's normal to tire of housework, business activities, or social obligations at times. The person with Alzheimer's disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the television for hours, sleeping more than usual, or not wanting to do usual activities.


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