Does my forgetfulness mean I have Alzheimer’s?

My memory isn't what it used to be. I frequently forget where I've put my keys, and I'm constantly getting to the cupboard only to realize I have no idea what I was looking for in the first place. I also have a hard time remembering names, and if I don't write down my daily schedule, I forget where I'm supposed to be and when. Do I have Alzheimer's disease?

Rest assured, forgetfulness is normal and experienced by young and old alike. Despite age, most people are alert and able to complete normal tasks.

It was formerly thought that confusion and forgetfulness were an inevitable part of the aging process. Scientists now know that as we age it may take longer for us to remember things but that doesn’t necessarily equate to Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia. However, some lapses in memory can be serious such as forgetfulness in conjunction with changes in personality and behavior, and this would warrant prompt evaluation by a health care provider.

The first symptom of Alzheimer’s is typically forgetfulness which can be manifested in several ways. The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR) has compiled a list of seven warning signs that, if noticed, should be evaluated promptly:

  1. Asking the same question over and over again
  2. Repeating the same story, word for word, again and again
  3. Forgetting how to cook, make repairs or play cards — activities that were previously done with ease and regularity
  4. Losing the ability to pay bills or balance a checkbook
  5. Getting lost in familiar surroundings or misplacing household objects
  6. Neglecting to bathe or wearing the same clothing over and over again while insisting they have taken a bath or that their clothes are still clean
  7. Relying on someone else, such as a spouse, to make decisions or answer questions that they previously would have handled themselves

If a person exhibits the above signs, it does not necessarily mean they have Alzheimer’s disease but it certainly means a thorough evaluation by a doctor is warranted. It is advisable to have a family member or a trusted friend accompany the individual because much of the evaluation depends on a comprehensive history that the patient may not remember.


Related Resources


Related Resources


This information was provided by Vicki Dihle, PA-C, a member of Focus on the Family’s Medical Outreach dept.

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