Dementia is to blame for one in 10 deaths in the UK as charity calls cruel, memory robbing disease the ‘biggest health crisis of our time’

Handing out money

Handing out cash to strangers can be an early warning sign of Alzheimer's disease.

This is evident from research from USC and Bar-Ilan University in Israel, which linked financial altruism to the early stages of the disease.

The study tested the theory on 67 adults around the age of 70.

The participants were put in pairs with people they had never met, and were given $10 (£8) to split between themselves and the other.

Neurological tests were given to the participants to assess their cognitive state and their potential risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The results, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, suggested that those who were at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease were also more willing to give money to the person they had never met.

Dr. Duke Han, a professor of neuropsychology at USC who led the study, said: 'Trouble managing money is considered one of the first signs of Alzheimer's disease, and this finding supports that idea.'

Changes in humor and increased swearing are all signs of Alzheimer's disease and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) – a form of dementia that causes problems with behavior and language. According to experts, poor parking and shabby clothes are also signs of the memory-robbing disease. Graphic shows: six signs of Alzheimer's disease

Changes in humor

Starting to watch slapstick comedy classics like Airplane and Mr Bean could be another sign of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers from University College London found that people who had the disease enjoyed watching slapstick, absurdist or satirical comedies more often than other people of the same age.

A questionnaire was given to friends and relatives of 48 people with Alzheimer's and FTD.

They were asked about their loved one's preferences for different types of comedy and whether their tastes had changed over the past fifteen years.

Researchers asked whether they were fans of slapstick comedy like Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean, satirical comedy like South Park or absurdist comedy like The Mighty Boosh.

Family and friends were also asked if they had noticed inappropriate humor in recent years.

According to the study published in 2015 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, people with the disease begin to prefer slapstick jokes nine years before the typical symptoms of dementia become apparent.

It also appeared that people with FTD were more likely to find tragic events funny, or to laugh at things that others would not find funny, such as a poorly parked car or a barking dog.

These changes in humor may be caused by shrinkage in the brain's frontal lobe, researchers say.

Dressed sloppily

Making fashion disasters, having trouble putting together clothes that match, and wearing things that are inappropriate for the weather can be another sign of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers from the Universities of Kent and York described how people with dementia were less likely to be able to dress themselves if left to their own devices.

The study, published in Sociology of Health and Illness in 2018, focused on 32 people in three care homes and 15 mainstream homes in Kent.

Researchers interviewed 28 care home staff, 29 caregivers and family members to find out how to dress people with dementia.

Melissa, a caregiver quoted in the study, said: 'I've never seen my father so dirty. Never. Until that day I came home and he was sitting there in messed up clothes, which really hurt me because I'm not used to that – not at all.'

Caregivers also said it was difficult to dress people with more advanced dementia, as they need encouragement and help guiding their arms.

Shabbiness and changes in what they wear can be caused by several symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, from muscle stiffness and jerky arm movements that make it physically more difficult to get dressed, to simply forgetting that clothes belong to them.

Bad parking

The memory-robbing disorder can make it difficult for Alzheimer's patients to drive.

The condition affects motor skills, memory and thought processes, making their reaction times when parking slow and poor, eventually leading patients to hand over the keys to their cars.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis studied the driving behavior of 139 people for a year to see how Alzheimer's disease changes while driving.

Half of the participants were diagnosed with early Alzheimer's, the other half were not.

The study, published in Alzheimer's Research and Therapy in 2021, suggested that people with the disease were more likely to drive slowly and suddenly change direction.

The team used the findings to create a model that predicted whether people had Alzheimer's disease based on their skills behind the wheel.

The model correctly guessed whether someone had the disease in nine out of ten cases.


Not having a filter and swearing in inappropriate situations can be another warning sign.

For example, the filter that people normally use to avoid using inappropriate language around children is weakened by the disease, causing people with FTD to let slip more profanity.

People with FTD are more likely to use the word “f**k” when asked to name words starting with “f,” researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles found.

In the study, published in Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology in 2010, 70 patients were asked to name as many words as they could think of in one minute, starting with the letters 'f', 'a' and 's'.

They also found that six out of 32 dementia patients said the swear word when asked to list words for 'f', and that more people said the word 's**t' for 's'.

Without filter

Just like swearing: when the brains of Alzheimer's patients change, they no longer get a filter.

How they act and what they say can degenerate in many cases.

Undressing in public, being rude and talking to strangers are all signs of the disease, according to experts.

The frontal prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobes of the brain is the part controlled by the filter. But if you get Alzheimer's disease, this part of the brain shrinks.

Alzheimer's Society said: 'These situations can be very confusing, distressing, upsetting or frustrating for someone with dementia, as well as for those close to them.

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