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Symptoms and Signs of Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms and Signs
(Early, Middle, and Late Stages)

Doctor's Notes on Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms and Signs
(Early, Middle, and Late Stages)

Alzheimer's disease is a common cause of dementia, which is impairment in memory and thinking severe enough to affect an individual's ability to function in daily life. The disease progresses at different rates in different people.

Early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include mild, slowly worsening memory loss, difficulty recognizing familiar people or things, trouble remembering recent events or activities, inability to solve simple arithmetic problems, social withdrawal, and trouble performing complex tasks. Symptoms of the middle (intermediate) stage of Alzheimer's disease include trouble with everyday activities, major gaps in memory, inability to think clearly and solve problems, inability to make judgments, difficulty learning new information, disorientation, confusion, anxiety, suspiciousness, hallucinations, and delusions. Symptoms of late-stage Alzheimer's disease include complete loss of short- and long-term memory, inability to recognize close relatives and friends, dependence on others for everyday activities, urinary or stool incontinence, severe disorientation, personality changes such as hostility or aggressiveness, loss of mobility, impaired ability to communicate, difficulty swallowing, which can result in malnutrition, choking, and aspiration.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms and Signs
(Early, Middle, and Late Stages) Symptoms

  • 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  • Individuals may seem withdrawn in social situations.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.

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.

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.

Dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, and Aging Brains Slideshow

Dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, and Aging Brains Slideshow

In 1906 Auguste Deter, a woman in her early 50s, became the first person diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a form of dementia. The disease is named after the doctor who first described it, Alois Alzheimer. The disease is characterized by odd behavior, memory problems, paranoia, disorientation, agitation, and delusions. After Deter’s death, Alzheimer performed a brain autopsy and discovered dramatic shrinkage and abnormal deposits in and around nerve cells.

In 1910 the term “Alzheimer’s Disease” was formally used. In 1974 Congress established the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the primary federal agency supporting Alzheimer’s research.

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

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