Early Warning Signs

Are you or someone you know experiencing any of the following?

  • Memory loss that affects job or lifestyle

  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks, such as cooking, driving, paying bills on time

  • Problems with language, such as forgetting common words

  • Disorientation to time or place, including getting lost

  • Poor or decreased judgment

  • Constantly misplacing things

  • A change in mood or behavior

  • A change in personality

  • Loss of initiative

These symptoms may indicate a memory disorder or dementia such as Alzheimer's disease.

Symptoms are usually mild in the early stage of the disease, allowing most individuals to continue to do simple daily routines. Many are aware of the changes that are taking place, including difficulty with many of the symptoms mentioned above.

You may not be able to identify someone with Alzheimer's disease by appearance.

Many individuals with mild and moderate cognitive impairment seem as alert and as physically fit as anyone their age. Individuals may also maintain their social skills or behave in a socially appropriate manner in familiar settings. In addition, some people may hide or deny their symptoms. These factors make identification of a person with Alzheimer's disease more difficult.

Because the disease progresses at different rates in individuals, symptoms and behaviors vary.

Understanding Memory Loss and Changes in Behavior

People with Alzheimer's disease share certain cognitive and behavioral characteristics.


In Alzheimer's disease, recent memories are lost first, while distant ones are often retained.

The affected individual may not remember his or her name, phone number, address, or caregiver. However, he or she may easily recall things that were learned decades ago.


People with Alzheimer's are prone to wander. They can become lost (even in familiar settings) and leave a safe environment.

Wandering can happen anytime or anywhere, and can be life-threatening for the individual. The Alzheimer's Association's Safe Return Program assists in the return of individuals with Alzheimer's who may wander and become lost. Click here for the Safe Return Program.


A person with Alzheimer's disease may react with agitation to events taking place.

During a catastrophic reaction, moods and behavior often change quickly. Individuals may become angry and combative, cry, or lash out verbally or physically at those who try to help them. It is important to remember that the person is not acting like this on purpose.

Changes in behavior can be triggered by various factors such as physical discomfort, fatigue, overstimulation, or frustrating interactions.