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Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms

  • Medical Author: Norberto Alvarez, MD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Alzheimer's Disease Stages: Symptoms and Signs Related Articles

How do I recognize Alzheimer's disease?

  • Alzheimer's disease (Alzheimer disease) is one of many causes of dementia, an impairment in memory and thinking that is severe enough to affect an individual's ability to function in daily life.
  • Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are subtle at first and may be identical to those associated with other causes of dementia.
  • While this article is a guide to the symptoms associated with various stages of Alzheimer's disease, the diagnosis of the condition must be made by a doctor who can determine the exact cause of the symptoms and rule out other causes of dementia.
  • Alzheimer's disease begins with a mild, slowly worsening memory loss.
  • These initial symptoms typically develop over a period of years and may be subtle.
  • The disease progresses at different rates in different people. Over time, people with the disease lose their ability to think and reason clearly, make judgments, solve problems, communicate, concentrate, remember useful information, and take care of themselves.
  • As the disease progresses, changes in personality and behavior can develop. Individuals may experience anxiety, agitation, paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.

What are the warning signs of Alzheimer's Disease?

The following signs are considered 'warning signs' that should prompt an evaluation by a healthcare professional.

  • Memory loss
  • Language problems
  • Difficulty in performing familiar tasks
  • Poor judgment
  • Misplacing items
  • Disorientation
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Personality changes
  • Increased apathy or passiveness

What symptoms characterize the stages of Alzheimer's Disease?

Symptoms typical of the early, intermediate, and late stages of Alzheimer's disease are presented below. It is important to remember that each case is unique, and a given individual may experience some but not all of the symptoms at a given time.

What are the symptoms of early-stage Alzheimer's Disease?

  • Difficulty in recognizing familiar people or things.
  • Difficulty recalling names of new acquaintances.
  • Trouble remembering recent events or activities.
  • Inability to solve simple arithmetic problems.
  • Forgetting where they have recently placed objects.
  • Finding the right word for a familiar thing and performing familiar tasks can be difficult.
  • Individuals may seem withdrawn in social situations.
  • Trouble performing complex tasks such as planning an event or paying bills.
  • Individuals can still understand and participate in conversation.
  • They can find their way through familiar surroundings without help.
  • They can still read and write and retain information long enough to rationalize.

What are the symptoms of middle (intermediate) stage of Alzheimer's Disease?

  • Starting to have trouble carrying out everyday activities such as bathing, dressing, and grooming without help
  • Major gaps in memory begin to be evident, with individuals often unable to recall their address, the year, the season, and recent events.
  • Individuals often incorrectly remember their personal history.
  • Inability to think clearly and solve problems
  • Inability to make judgments such as dressing for the weather
  • Difficulty with understanding or learning new information
  • Speaking, reading, and writing are difficult, but individuals can usually read and understand short phrases, especially common ones.
  • Individuals can be disoriented or confused even in familiar surroundings, occasionally forgetting names of people close to them.
  • Beginning to experience significant behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, suspiciousness, hallucinations, or delusions
  • They can still remember things that happened long ago and recognize people from early in their life.
  • They still recognize their own face.
  • They can interpret simple sensory experiences (sound, taste, smells, sights, and touch).
  • Walking and mobility are usually not difficult.
  • They can usually still eat and use the toilet without assistance.
  • Individuals can make decisions requiring a simple yes/no and either/or judgment

What are the symptoms of late-stage Alzheimer's Disease?

  • Complete loss of short- and long-term memory, potentially even the inability to recognize even close relatives and friends.
  • Complete dependence on others for everyday activities including eating and using the toilet.
  • Urinary or stool incontinence.
  • Severe disorientation- including wandering and getting lost.
  • Heightened behavior or personality changes such as hostility or aggressiveness, may be apparent.
  • Individuals lose their mobility and may be unable to walk or move or even sit without help.
  • Impaired ability to communicate.
  • Other movements, such as swallowing are impaired, which increases the risk of malnutrition, choking, and aspiration.
  • Interpreting and using basic body language is still possible.
  • Individuals can usually still understand and experience sensory information.
Alzheimer's Symptoms and Signs, the Early, Middle, and Late Stages

A Caregivers' Challenge: Dealing with "Sundowning" in Alzheimer's Disease

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

"Sundowning" or "Sundown Syndrome" is a phenomenon well known to many of the estimated 2.4 to 3.1 million caregivers to persons with Alzheimer's diseasein the U.S. Sundowning refers to the changes in behavior and mood that often occur in the late afternoon or evening in people with Alzheimer's disease and similar conditions that alter brain function. These changes in mood and behavior can be particularly challenging for caregivers and loved ones.

Symptoms associated with sundowning include:

  • aggression,
  • agitation,
  • delusions,
  • hallucinations,
  • paranoia,
  • increased disorientation, and
  • wandering.

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Reviewed on 11/20/2017
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