Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

This Is Getting Old Podcast with Melissa B PhD

Jun 23, 2020

Ten Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

“People with Alzheimer's can lose track of what time it is.”— Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FAAN (06:05-06:10)

A lot of us have been home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe you're interacting with your older relatives more than usual and you may be noticing some memory problems. If you're worried about somebody having an issue with their memory and want to have them checked, what are the top 10 warning signs that you should look for?

In this week's episode, you’ll learn about:

  • Alzheimer’s and/or other dementia/typical age-related changes.

Part One of ‘Ten Signs of Alzheimer's Disease’

The first question is, what is dementia? It's a broad umbrella term, meaning that many different symptoms go into this term. People are going to have difficulty with their memory. They're going to have trouble with language, but also problem-solving and executive planning. 

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that accounts for about 60 to 80 percent of the different dimensions that we see. The other dementias that are most common are Lewy Body Dementia and Vascular Dementia. Those types of dementias tend to appear a little bit differently. 


You may have one type or a mix of things, particularly if you have high blood pressure or you've had many strokes in the past, and you may have Alzheimer's, you may have a combination of Alzheimer's type dementia and vascular dementia. For the most part, these symptoms are pretty similar.

“They may tell you the same story or they may have difficulty finding the right word.” — Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FAAN (09:10-09:15)

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life.

Warning Sign: Forgetting important dates, repetitive, need more memory aids than before.

Normal aging: Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.

  • Challenges in planning or solving problems.

Warning Sign: Trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of paying monthly bills.

Normal aging: Making occasional error balancing a checkbook.


  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or play.

Warning Sign: Trouble organizing a shopping list or trouble driving to a familiar place.

Normal aging: Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show

Part Two of ‘Ten Signs of Alzheimer's Disease’

  • Confusion with time or place

Warning Sign: Forget where you are or how you got there.

Normal aging: Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

Warning Sign: Trouble judging distance 

Normal Aging: Vision changes related to cataracts, glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration

  • New problems with words in speaking or writing

Warning Sign: Trouble following conversation or forgets where they are in a story

Normal aging: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word


“These are only warning signs. They are not diagnostic.” —  Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FAAN (16:04-16:05)

  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

Warning Sign: Put things in usual places, accuse others of stealing

Normal aging: Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them

  • Decreased or poor judgment

Warning Sign: Less attention to grooming; giving away large amounts of money

Normal aging: Making bad decisions once in a while

  • Withdrawal from work or social activities

Warning Signs: Starts to remove themselves from activities, social activities, or hobbies

Normal aging: Sometimes feeling weary of work, friends, and social obligations

  • Changes in mood or personality

Warning Sign: Confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. Upset when out of their comfort zone

Normal aging: Developing very specific ways of doing things, and become irritable when the routine is disrupted

For more information on Alzheimer’s or related dementias, visit

About Melissa

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (‘96) and Master of Science in Nursing (‘00) as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) School of Nursing (SON). I truly enjoy working with the complex medical needs of older adults. I worked full-time for five years as FNP in geriatric primary care across many long-term care settings (skilled nursing homes, assisted living, home and office visits) then transitioned into academic nursing in 2005, joining the faculty at UNCW SON as a lecturer. I obtained my PhD in Nursing and a post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing Education from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing (’11) and then joined the faculty at Duke University School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. My family moved to northern Virginia in 2015 and led to me joining the faculty at George Washington University (GW) School of Nursing in 2018 as a (tenured) Associate Professor where I am also the Director of the GW Center for Aging, Health and Humanities. Find out more about her work at