Alzheimer’s is characterized primarily by a gradual onset of progressive symptoms, including:
changes in personality
noticeable decline in cognitive abilities (including speech and understanding)
loss of executive function (decision-making)
losses impairing activities of daily living (dressing, eating, toileting etc.)
Today, new diagnostic tools and criteria make it possible for all physicians (primary care as well as specialists) to make a positive clinical diagnosis of probable Alzheimer’s with an accuracy of approximately 90 percent.
Recognizing symptoms early and accurately diagnosing a patient with Alzheimer’s is important. Although the onset of Alzheimer’s disease cannot yet be stopped or reversed, an early diagnosis gives patients a greater chance of benefiting from existing treatments and allows them and their families more time to plan for the future.
Cognitive function should be assessed not only in those concerned about memory loss but also in patients who may not yet exhibit obvious symptoms but have risk factors for the disease, such as age and family history. The Alzheimer’s Association has established a list of 10 warning signs to look for when attempting to detect Alzheimer’s in a patient, before the disease progresses to the advanced stages.