Alzheimer's: Dressing scruffy, parking badly and swearing are signs of disease

Alzheimer’s: Dressing scruffy, parking badly and swearing are signs of disease

Memory loss, confusion, and disorientation are the three well-known signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

However, there are dozens of subtle behavioral changes that can also signal the cruel life-stealing condition.

Even before the most devastating symptoms of the disease begin, patients may experience a change in mood and begin to wear more disheveled clothing.

And scientists this week discovered another potential signal.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) found that older people who were more willing to give money to a stranger seemed to have a higher risk of being hit.

Alzheimer’s affects around 850,000 people in the UK and 5.8 million in the US, but charities fear rates will soar around the world in coming decades as the population ages.

Here, MailOnline reveals some of the other unusual signs that you or a loved one might have Alzheimer’s.

While memory loss, confusion, and disorientation are well-known signs of Alzheimer’s disease, experts have also discovered dozens of subtle behaviors that could indicate the condition. Chart shows: Six signs of Alzheimer’s disease

giving money

Older people are known to be more at risk of scams.

But the latest research also shows that handing out money can potentially be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from USC and the University of Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that financial altruism was significantly related to being in the early stages of the disease.

The researchers recruited 67 older adults in their 70s for the study.

Each participant was paired with another person they had never seen before in a lab setting and was given $10 (£8) to distribute between themselves and the others.

The elderly participants also underwent neurological tests to judge their current cognitive status and their potential risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The researchers found that those who were willing to give more money to a person they had never met before were also often in a worse cognitive state, suggesting they had a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.

The results, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, suggested that the disease’s effects on the brain could have a side effect, making people more vulnerable to handing over cash.

Dr. Duke Han, a USC neuropsychology professor who led the research, said, “Money management problems are thought to be one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and this finding supports that notion.”

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and degenerative disease of the brain, in which the accumulation of abnormal proteins causes the death of nerve cells.

This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages and causes the brain to shrink.

More than 5 million people have the disease in the US, where it is the sixth leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.


As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.

That includes memory, orientation, and the ability to think and reason.

The progress of the disease is slow and gradual.

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live ten to 15 years.


  • short-term memory loss
  • disorientation
  • behavior changes
  • Humor changes
  • Difficulty handling money or making a phone call


  • Severe memory loss, forgetfulness of close relatives, familiar objects or places
  • Feeling anxious and frustrated by the inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior.
  • Eventually loses the ability to walk
  • You may have trouble eating
  • Most will eventually need 24-hour care.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

mood swings

Being a big fan of Mr Bean could be another sign of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) found that people with the disease were more likely to enjoy satirical or absurd comedy shows than healthy adults of the same age.

Friends and family members of 48 people with Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a rare type of dementia that causes behavior and language problems, were given questionnaires about their loved ones’ liking for different types of comedy.

They were asked if people liked slapstick comedies like Rowan Atkinson, satirical comedies like South Park, or wacky comedies like The Might Boosh.

Family members were also asked if their relative had changed their preference in the past 15 years and if they had ever noticed any inappropriate humor more recently.

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015, found that people with Alzheimer’s began to prefer practical jokes around nine years before the onset of typical dementia symptoms.

People with FTD were also more likely to laugh at tragic events in the news or in their personal lives, or events that others might not find funny, such as a badly parked car or a barking dog.

The researchers said more study is needed to determine the exact cause of the mood swings, but most behavioral changes after developing Alzheimer’s disease are caused by the brain’s shrinkage in the frontal lobe.

dress scruffy

People with Alzheimer’s may also have difficulty choosing clothes that fit well and wearing things that are appropriate for the weather when they are not being helped.

Researchers from the universities of Kent and York described how people suffering from dementia, which is most commonly caused by Alzheimer’s, become less able to dress themselves.

The research, published in the Sociology of Health and Illness in 2018, studied 32 people in three care homes and 15 regular homes in Kent.

It also interviewed 29 family and relative caregivers and 28 nursing home staff for their views on how to dress people with dementia.

Melissa, a family caregiver who was quoted in the study, described her devastation after her father began changing the way he dressed when he contracted Alzheimer’s disease.

She said: ‘I’ve never seen my dad disheveled. Never. Until that day I came home and he was sitting there with his clothes in a mess, which really hurt me because I’m not used to that at all.

Caregivers also described difficulty dressing people with more advanced dementia, having to guide their arms and encourage them.

Changes in the way you dress can be caused by a variety of Alzheimer’s effects, from forgetting that your clothes belong to you to muscle stiffness and sudden jerky movements that make it more difficult to put them on.

bad parking

Alzheimer’s patients’ driving can also worsen significantly as the condition begins to affect their motor skills and thought processes, studies show.

The disease slows down people’s reactions, making them worse at parking and eventually forcing them to hand over their car keys.

Giving up driving can often make people with the memory steal condition stressed and agitated, due to the perceived sacrifice in autonomy.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis studied the driving habits of 139 people for a year to see how the disease affected them. Half were diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s, while the other half were not.

The study, published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy in 2021, found that people with the disease were much more likely to make sudden changes of direction and drive more slowly.

The changes were so marked that the researchers were able to create a model to predict whether people had Alzheimer’s based solely on how they drove.

The model accurately predicted cases in 90 percent of people.


Another sign of Alzheimer’s disease can be becoming more incompetent, especially in inappropriate situations.

The filter that people normally use to avoid swearing in front of children, for example, is no longer as strong, resulting in more profanity.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that 18 percent of people with FTD used the word ‘f**k’ when asked to name words beginning with ‘f’. This was compared to none of those with Alzheimer’s.

The 70-patient study, published in Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology in 2010, asked patients to name as many words as they could think of that began with the letters ‘f’, ‘a’ and ‘s’ in one minute.

While the study didn’t provide any raw data, it did show that six of the 32 dementia patients said profanity when asked to list ‘f’ words, and more said the ‘s**t’ word for ‘s’. .

have no filter

Similar to swearing, as Alzheimer’s patients’ brains change, their ability to filter what they say and how they act tends to degenerate in many cases.

People may become rude, say inappropriate things, start undressing in public, or start talking to strangers more often than they would have done before.

Experts say that patients can also lose their sexual inhibitions in some circumstances, for example by inappropriate touching in public.

They believe the change is caused by brain shrinkage in the frontal prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobes of the brain, the part that controls our filter.

The Alzheimer’s Society said: “These situations can be very confusing, distressing, shocking or frustrating for someone with dementia, as well as those close to them.”

‘The person with dementia may not understand why their behavior is considered inappropriate. It is very unlikely that they are being inappropriate on purpose.

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