Skip to content

Signs You Have Alzheimer's Disease, According to Experts

Geriatric doctor explains what to know about Alzheimer's. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Alzheimer's Disease affects nearly 6 million Americans and is defined by the Alzheimer's Association as, "A type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms eventually grow severe enough to interfere with daily tasks." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060." Signs of the disease usually start after the age of 60, although younger people in their 30s and 40s can get Alzheimer's too but it's not as common and symptoms vary from person to person. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Landsverk, a geriatrician, founder of Elder Consult and author of the forthcoming book Living in the Moment: A Guide to Overcoming Challenges and Finding Moments of Joy in Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias about signs of Alzheimer's to watch out for. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Memory Loss

Dr. Landsverk shares, "Alzheimer's Disease, as opposed to vascular dementia or head trauma leading to dementia is a very slow process over 4-15 years. It develops from the deposition of protein (plaques) in parts of the brain affecting everything from mood, memory and judgment."


​​More Withdrawn and Less Empathetic

Comforting Senior Husband Suffering With Dementia

According to Dr. Landsverk, "This is often overlooked, and if noticed then the loved one is thought to be mean. It is a change in the frontal lobes that govern mood, social inhibitions and reasoning. Remember the LO does not have control of this development.  Of course, it is important to make sure the elder is not on medications that can cause the same changes and can be confused for dementia."


Not Taking Care of Routine Tasks

Moody aged man feeling unhappy.

Dr. Landsverk says if a "loved one is not taking care of regular tasks- not paying bills, making appointments, taking medication," it could be a sign of Alzheimer's. "Many kinds of dementia can result in short term memory loss.  Alzheimer's is different from vascular dementia, where the elder sounds very mentally clear, but forgets what happened 5 minutes prior. The hippocampus is the location of short term memory and is directly affected by Alzheimer's disease, they more generally become detached from remembering their routines, their responsibilities and their roles in the world. Later in the disease the elder may mistake a son for a husband or not remember a spouse and be afraid."



older woman with gray hair and head against window

Dr. Landsverk explains, "A loved one can get angry and paranoid, again this can be worse from medications. But this can also be from the disease. It is baffling, scary and takes the focus and love of family to not respond in a harsh voice but to be gentle, supportive and if they are still angry, leave the room for 15 minutes to let them calm down… then start with another topic they are likely to enjoy."


Getting Lost Going to Familiar Places

Senior woman conducting an interview

Dr. Landsverk reveals to watch out for a "loved one who gets lost driving to places that they know well, the store, to church, or they forget how something they are familiar with works, the phone the TV remote. That shows they are losing their memory and ability to reason."


Who is at Risk for Alzheimer's?

Senior woman in consultation with her female doctor or therapist

According to Dr. Landsverk, "As we age our risk for dementia increases.  For people over 65 it is 10% have dementia and for those over 85 40% have dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the cause of 70% of dementias.  Vascular dementia (small strokes, related to diabetes, hypertension, increased cholesterol and obesity). Our risk increases if we have 1 copy but particularly having 2 copies of the ApoE4 gene. However, I would not advise having genetic testing, unless most of your family developed dementia in their 50s. First, it should be done in a medical center in a genetic disease department to help interpret the results. Second, it will likely not stay private and will affect your life insurance, and possibly other coverage costs."

RELATED: Inflammation Calming Secrets That Really Work


How to Help Prevent Alzheimer's

Group seniors with dementia builds a tower in the nursing home from colorful building blocks

Dr. Landsverk says, "There are many promised magic cures. NO supplements or medical treatments prevent Alzheimer's; not turmeric, not coconut oil, not brain stimulating pills, not stem cell injections. The good news; more than 50% of dementia can be prevented by a vegetarian diet (i.e. controlling weight, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol) and 30 minutes of exercise.  It is not expensive ( and no, the $10,000 program promising to reverse dementia does not work either… I have had to take care of many of those patients when the treatments fail), but it is not easy.  No diet coke and chocolate cake.  Just good healthy living."

RELATED: What an Unhealthy Gut Feels Like, According to Experts


Difference Between Normal Aging and Alzheimer's

Confident smiling doctor posing in the hospital.

Dr. Landsverk explains, "So the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer's is that we all forget at times… our peak brain power is at 26.  However, if we are forgetting to take care of independent activities of daily living, shopping, paying bills, keeping appointments, taking medication and it is affecting one's life, they need evaluation."

RELATED: Sure Signs You're Getting Dementia, According to Science


Be Careful of Elder Abuse


Dr. Landsverk reveals, "I have worked as a consultant to the San Francisco Elder Abuse Forensics Committee and the most dangerous time for an elder is early in dementia when they have lost some memory and reasoning, but they are in control of their retirement funds and their assets.  I have seen many elder swindlers and like the Grinch, the abuser often takes every last crumb of wealth.  We need to protect our loved ones when they cannot protect themselves."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather