New research reveals early signs of dementia and Alzheimer's

Behavioral changes could be clues
Posted at 4:46 PM, Aug 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 17:12:33-04

Many of us love someone suffering with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia. Often, we are responsible for getting the right help.

Now, there are new symptoms to look for that could give doctors a head start on treatment.

Henry Vasquez has always had one love.

“Baseball in general, but more or less the Yankees, and he's taught his sons to play baseball," Lori Vasquez said.

About six years ago, Lori said her father-in-law wasn't quite himself.

“Just bizarre behavior, and not really being able to communicate at a restaurant what he wanted for dinner or what he wanted to drink was the biggest clue," she said.

These were the first signs of dementia. New research shows behavior changes could be the first clue.

“These signs can crop up months to years before the actual diagnosis,” said Dr. Amanda Smith, Medical Director of USF Health's Byrd Institute.

She said we typically link memory loss with Alzheimer's or dementia. These behavioral changes could help family members and doctors identify a problem sooner. 

“Things like being worried that people are out to get you being anxious or nervous being apathetic or happy to sit around and look at the squirrels when you used to be the life of the party," Dr. Smith said.

The new checklist has 34 questions about behaviors present for at least six months.

“Having these kind of tools to really identify these patients accurately can get them on the right road to treatment and really have a change in the outcome of their life," Dr. Smith said.

That's something Lori hopes will help other families.

“Having this research early is going to be able to educate families so that they’ll call the doctor,” she said.