Alzheimer’s Symptoms to Watch For

Nearly everyone has watched an older relative struggle to recall a name, date, or story. As we age, memory loss becomes more common. That’s normal. We can’t stay sharp forever.

Yet, it may be more serious if a loved one gets lost at a store you visit frequently, begins repeating themselves often, forgets a fond memory, or fails to complete a simple task without help. These could all be signs of dementia. Dementia is a general term, but its most common form is Alzheimer’s disease.

Facts and Figures

In 2020 as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of people living with this disease doubles every five years past age 65. Symptoms first appear around age 60 and the risk increases as we get older.

Alzheimer’s involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. It’s progressive and can affect the ability to carry on conversations or perform daily activities.

It is the sixth leading cause of death among U.S. adults and the fifth leading cause of death among adults 65 and older.

Signs of Alzheimer’s

Most people notice changes in themselves before anyone else does. Sometimes, however, they don’t want to acknowledge those changes. In those instances, family and close friends should stay alert for the following and see a doctor for the cause of any one of these.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life: forgetting events, relying on sticky notes to remember things, repeating oneself.
  2. Planning or solving problems becomes hard: it’s difficult to pay bills or cook familiar recipes.
  3. Hard to complete simple tasks: it’s difficult to make calls, drive, or shop.
  4. Confusion with time or place: can’t understand an event or confusing dates.
  5. Confusing images or spatial relationships: difficulty balancing, tripping on objects because distance is hard to judge, spilling and dropping things.
  6. New problems with speaking or writing words: becomes hard to join conversations or remember simple terms.
  7. Misplacing things: putting keys where they don’t belong, for example, and not being able to retrace steps to find them.
  8. Poor judgment: becoming victim to a scam, unable to care for a pet, or failing to clean oneself.
  9. Withdrawal from people: not doing normal activities because it’s too hard to keep up with what’s happening.
  10. Changes in personality: getting upset when inappropriate, being scared and/or suspicious.

Risk Factors

Doctors and researchers are still trying to fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease. It seems people are affected differently, but there are some common factors:

  • Age — It most commonly affects people over age 65.
  • Genetics — Family history may play a role but it’s not a guarantee.
  • Lifestyle — Two studies have shown a connection to physical activity, a healthy diet, limited alcohol intake, and avoiding cigarettes to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The same lifestyle adjustments used to reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes may also slow or stop cognitive decline.
  • Race and ethnicityAfrican Americans and Hispanics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than non-Hispanic whites.


There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but early diagnosis can help slow the progression of the disease. There are drug and non-drug options to help treat symptoms and possibly improve quality of life. Eventually, a person with Alzheimer’s will no longer be able to care for themselves.

Family members or friends caring for someone with Alzheimer’s often neglect their own health. It has been associated with:

  • Higher levels of depression and anxiety
  • Increased use of psychoactive medications
  • Worse self-reporting of health
  • A compromised immune system
  • Increased risk of early death

Care for Yourself and Your Aging Family Members

AltaMed is here for the lifetime of our patients — from pediatrics through senior care. We can also connect you with the appropriate social services to get you relief as a caregiver and find you programs to help your aging family member.

Our behavioral health team is available to talk to you about the pressures of caring for an older family member and help you with coping mechanisms. They can also connect you with a longer-term counselor should you need it. Call AltaMed at (877) 462-2582 to get stared with us today.

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See how AltaMed Health Services can help your family grow healthy.

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Nurse and elderly woman

Fight Alzheimer’s by Keeping Your Brain Sharp

September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day. At AltaMed, we’re dedicated to helping our members do whatever they can to fight this debilitating disease. Take a few minutes to learn more about what you can do that may protect your precious brainpower.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Graphic Representation of a Brain

Alzheimer’s is a devasting disease that destroys memory and other brain functions, and makes people behave in abnormal, and sometimes dangerous and unpredictable ways. Early symptoms may be quite mild – for example, the inability to remember names, places, or common words. As the disease advances, the confusion can become more pronounced, and there may be significant changes in ability to reason, make sound decisions, and safely navigate activities of daily living. Over time, it robs its sufferers of their independence.

It is a disease that usually affects older people, but Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process. Scientists believe that Alzheimer’s is caused by several different factors – including genetics, which you can’t change, but also lifestyle and environmental factors – which you absolutely can change.

Unfortunately, you can’t test for Alzheimer’s the same way you’d test for diabetes or other common diseases. Doctors typically diagnose Alzheimer’s by evaluating reports of behavior, testing memory and cognitive function, and then possibly with an MRI or a CT scan to rule out other conditions.

The good news is that fewer than 5% of cases are truly familial Alzheimer’s, or a type that runs in the family. Besides helping you reduce your risks for Alzheimer’s, many of these tips will help you feel sharper and can improve your overall health. Get started today!

Eat More Brainfood

Healthy Diet

Because there is no miracle cure to prevent Alzheimer’s, most doctors recommend focusing on nutrition – healthy eating can make a big difference. In one promising study, a diet high in leafy veggies, lean meat, and healthy fats was shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 53%.


  • Fatty fish – oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring may protect your brain cells, so try to add two servings to your diet each week
  • Green, leafy vegetables – enjoy hearty salads made from kale, broccoli, spinach, and romaine, and you’ll also get a hearty helping of antioxidants
  • Berries – this delicious fruit can play a sweet role in protecting your brain function
  • Nuts – walnuts, in particular, have shown promise for improving your memory
  • Coffee and tea –a little jolt of caffeine (in moderation) may improve your mental function

Cut back on:

  • Cheese
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Fried/fast foods
  • Butter/stick margarine

Start Exercising Now and Stay Active

Exercise Time

We already know that exercise is good for your heart and reduces the risk for almost every type of cancer, but physical exercise also slows down the brain drain that comes with aging and lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Studies show that exercising as few as 10 minutes a day can boost brain function, but you should still aim for at least 30 minutes, three to four times a week.

Sleep Easy

Woman Sleeping

There’s increasing proof that getting a good night’s sleep can help protect your brain from this devastating disease. Those who suffer from impaired sleep on a regular basis are also more likely to have heart attacks, stroke, arthritis, and other serious health conditions. To learn more about how to get those Zzzzzs, read these 10 easy tips.

Keep Challenging Your Brain

Elder Man Using a Computer

Challenging your brain can help you hold onto what you’ve got. Structured, complex courses were shown to have the biggest benefit. Taking a class at a community college is an excellent way to learn something new, increase your social circle – and you can even pick up skills to help you get a new job. You can also take free online classes from platforms like Coursera and Udemy.

It doesn’t need to be a rigorous, academic class, either. Try learning a dance routine or new cooking skills. Choose a subject you’ll enjoy or are curious about, so you’re more likely to stick with it.

Be Bilingual

Happy Family Eating in the Morning

Good news for those English/Spanish households: research has found that speaking two or more languages, even if you learned the second language as an adult, may slow down your brain’s aging. No matter if you’re not 100% fluent in the second language, continue to practice and speak it – it helps your brain!

Stay Social

Family Smiling

The experts at Harvard Medical School say that maintaining a network of strong social connections is as important in protecting your brain as exercise and a healthy diet. Spending time with friends and family in real life can help protect your memory and brain performance. Having strong ties with friends and family also prevents loneliness that can lead to depression, which has been shown to speed up cognitive decline.

Aging with Independence and Dignity

Senior Couple Holding Hands

If you have a senior loved one who may need a little extra help to maintain their independence, AltaMed PACE may be an easy solution to helping them stay healthy at home. Learn more about the program, including eligibility requirements and locations.

Woman And Doctor Senior Screenings

Grow Healthy at Every Age with Recommended Health Screenings for Seniors

Thanks in large part to improved medical care and changes in how most of us work, people are living longer. Someone born today is expected to live until they’re 77.8 years old.

How well you age depends largely on how well you live. A big part of that includes getting regular preventive health screenings for general physical health, cancer, and mental capacity.

 No matter how old you are, AltaMed can help you grow healthy with caring, attentive service and age-appropriate care. Read on to learn about the screenings and routine visits that are recommended for seniors. 

Doctor Holding Patients Hand

Physical Screenings

Screenings can help you stay on top of chronic illnesses: if you do have a condition, it’s best to catch it early as treatment might not need to be as aggressive or invasive, and costs could be less. 

Recommended physical screenings include:

  • Blood pressure — Almost half of all adults have high blood pressure, so it’s important to have yours checked at least once a year (or as often as your doctor recommends).
  • Cholesterol — Many people are able to reduce their cholesterol with a healthy diet and exercise, but sometimes medication is needed. 
  • Obesity — Being obese is hard on the heart, liver, and joints and puts you at risk for serious conditions.
  • Blood glucose and Type 2 Diabetes — Medicare covers screenings in people with one or more risk factors.
  • Vision Your eyes change with age  and you run the risk of developing glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eyes, and loss of peripheral vision.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm — This is a standard check of the heart for men 65 to 75, who have smoked.
  • Osteoporosis — Bone-density tests are covered once every two years for women over 65. Post-menopausal women younger than 65 should also be screened.
  • Hepatitis C — Medicare covers at least one screening for adults born specifically between 1945 and 1965.
  • HIV — Older adults at higher risk include people with multiple partners, men who have had sex with other men, and people with past and present injection drug use.
  • Other STIs — Sexually active adults at all ages should be screened regularly.
Doctor Talking to His Patient

Cancer screenings

Age is a leading risk factor in a number of cancer types, though it’s not really clear why. So, it’s incredibly important to get screened. A number of cancers are easily detectible and can be treated successfully if diagnosed early.

  • Colorectal cancer — Routine screening should start at 50 unless there is a family history. Then it should be earlier and more often. Otherwise, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years.
  • Breast cancer — Medicare covers screening mammograms every 12 months.
  • Cervical cancer — Older women who have never been screened should have a Pap smear at least once. Women at high risk should have one every 12 months. 
  • Lung cancer This screening is recommended for adults aged 55-80 who were heavy smokers (about 30-packs a year) or who quit in the last 15 years.
  • Prostate cancer — Men can choose between a digital rectal exam or a prostate-specific antigen test. Screenings are recommended between 55 and 69 years of age.
Women Looking at a Cell Phone

Mental and safety screenings

When your AltaMed doctor asks questions about your life and what’s been on your mind, it’s not just to be polite: they may be looking for clues about your mood, mental state, and mental sharpness. These are delicate topics, but your answers can help identify:

  • Depression — The goal is to make sure you are not on a path that could lead to harming yourself or others. Therapy, medication, or a combination can help control depression.
  • Cognitive impairment — Cognitive Impairment is when a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life, and ranges from mild to severe. Doctors want to ensure you can still function in your current living situation. This may require input from a caregiver.
  • Falls and functional ability — Part of Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit includes looking at the ability to manage the activities of daily living. Doctors will ask questions about mobility and the risk of falling which could lead to a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or breaking a hip, wrist, or some other joint. 
  • Substance use — Someone who has been drinkingsmoking or doing drugs their entire life will eventually pay the price for it. Answer honestly about alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drug use.

PACE Yourself with AltaMed

Making these screenings a regular part of your healthy habits could help you feel great and stay independent for longer. Talk to your doctor to get their personalized recommendations.

If you’re a caregiver or a senior with complex medical needs, AltaMed PACE offers coordinated care and services, including medical treatment, physical therapy, and social services. The program even offers meals, exercise, social activities, and transportation for qualified seniors. 

There are 11 AltaMed PACE facilities in the greater Los Angeles area including two new locations in Orange County:

1325 N. Anaheim Blvd., Suite 100
Anaheim, California 92801

Santa Ana
3601 W. Sunflower Ave., Suite 100
Santa Ana, California 92704

AltaMed PACE has made a difference for seniors like Antonio, Kenneth, and Rodolfo and Bertha – it may be right for you, too. 

For more information about services or eligibility, visit or call (855) 252-PACE (7223).

Alzheimer’s Symptoms to Watch For