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

While memory loss, confusion, and disorientation are all well-known signs of Alzheimer’s disease, experts have also uncovered dozens of subtle behaviors that may indicate the condition.

Research suggests there are many changes that could signal the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease before the signature forgetfulness sets in, from favoring slapstick comedy to wearing shabby clothes.

And now they’ve discovered another one.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC), in Los Angeles, found that older people who are more willing to give away money to a person they don’t know are more at risk for the disease.

Alzheimer’s affects around 850,000 people in the UK and 5.8 million in the US, but experts fear the numbers will rise across the world in the coming decades, with the aging population.

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

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While memory loss, confusion, and disorientation are all well-known signs of Alzheimer’s disease, experts have also uncovered dozens of subtle behaviors that may indicate the condition. Graphics: Six Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

handing out money

The elderly are known to be more at risk for being scammed, but the latest research also shows that handing out money may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s.

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

The researchers gathered 67 older adults around age 70 for the study.

Each participant was matched with another person they had never met before in a lab setting, and handed $10 (£8) to split between themselves and the other.

The older participants also received neurological tests to assess their current cognitive state and their potential risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers found that those who were willing to give more money to a person they had never met before also tended to be in a worse cognitive state and tested higher for Alzheimer’s risk.

The results, published their findings in the Alzheimer’s Journalsuggested that the disease’s effects on the brain may have a knock-on effect that makes people more vulnerable.

dr. Duke Han, a neuropsychology professor at USC who led the study, said, “Difficulty managing money is considered one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and this finding supports that idea.”

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain in which the build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.

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

More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.


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

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

The course of the disease is slow and gradual.

Patients live an average of five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live ten to 15 years.


  • Loss of short-term memory
  • disorientation
  • Behavioral changes
  • mood swings
  • Difficulty handling or calling money


  • Severe amnesia, forgetting close relatives, familiar objects or places
  • Becoming anxious and frustrated with the inability to understand the world, leading to aggressive behavior
  • Eventually loses the ability to walk
  • May have trouble eating
  • The majority ultimately need 24-hour care

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

Changes in humor

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

Researchers from University College London (UCL) found that people who suffered from the disease were more likely to enjoy slapstick over satirical or absurdist comedy shows than healthy adults of the same age.

Friends and relatives of 48 people with Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) — an uncommon form of dementia that causes problems with behavior and language — were given questionnaires about their loved one’s fondness for different types of comedy.

They were asked if people enjoyed slapstick comedy like the Rowan Atkinson, satirical comedy like South Park or absurdist comedy like The Might Boosh.

Relatives were also asked if their relative had changed their preferences in the past 15 years and if they had ever noticed inappropriate humor recently.

The study, published in the Alzheimer’s Journal in 2015 they found that people with Alzheimer’s disease preferred slapstick jokes about nine years before the onset of typical dementia symptoms.

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

Researchers said more studies are needed to determine the exact cause of the changes in humor, but most behavioral changes after developing Alzheimer’s disease are caused by the shrinking of the brain in the frontal lobe.

Dirty dressed

People with Alzheimer’s may also have trouble choosing clothes that fit well together and wearing things that are suitable for the weather if left unaided.

Researchers from the Universities of Kent and York described how people with dementia – which is usually caused by Alzheimer’s disease – were less able to dress properly.

The research, published in Sociology of health and disease in 2018 32 people studied in three care homes and 15 regular homes in Kent.

It also interviewed 29 caregivers and relatives and 28 nursing home staff to get their views on how people with dementia should be dressed

Melissa, a caregiver quoted in the study, described her devastation after her father began changing how he dressed when he developed Alzheimer’s disease.

She said, “I’ve never seen my father dirty. Never. Until that day when I came in the house and he’s sitting there in messed up clothes that really hurt me because I’m not used to that—not at all.”

Caregivers also described difficulties dressing, guiding and encouraging people with more advanced dementia.

Changes in dressing can be caused by a variety of effects of Alzheimer’s disease, from forgetting the clothes that go with it to muscle stiffness and sudden jerks that make them more difficult to put on.

Bad parking

Driving in Alzheimer’s patients can also get significantly worse as the condition begins to affect their motor skills and thought processes, studies show.

The disease slows people’s reactions, makes them worse when parking, and eventually forces them to hand over the keys to their car.

Stopping driving can often cause people with the memory-depriving condition to become stressed and agitated, due to the perceived sacrifice in autonomy.

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

The study, published in Alzheimer’s research and therapy in 2021 found that those with the disease were significantly more likely to make abrupt changes in direction and drive slower.

The changes were so strong that researchers were able to create a model to predict whether people had Alzheimer’s based on their driving style alone.

The model accurately predicted cases in 90 percent of people.


Another sign of Alzheimer’s disease can become a potty mouth, 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 that started with “f.” This compares to none of those who had Alzheimer’s disease.

The study of 70 patients, published in Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology in 2010, patients were asked to name as many words as they could think of using the letters “f,” “a,” and “s” within a minute.

While the study did not provide raw data, it showed that six of the 32 dementia patients said the swear word when asked to list words for “f,” and more said the word “s**t” before “s.”

Not having a filter

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

People may become rude, say inappropriate things, undress in public, or start talking to strangers more often than before.

Experts say patients can also lose their sexual inhibitions in some circumstances, such as through inappropriate touching in public.

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

Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘These situations can be very confusing, disturbing, shocking or frustrating for someone with dementia, as well as for their loved ones.

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

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