What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?

The common symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease are: 
  • Memory loss
  • Problems with numbers
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems constructing things
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Getting lost
  • Confusion with time, date or location
  • Difficulty interpreting what is seen
  • Struggling with vocabulary or verbal expression
  • Judgment problems
  • Changes in mood or personality 
David B. Reuben, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include loss of memory, loss of language, visual-spatial problems, loss of higher-level functioning -- what doctors call executive functioning -- and apathy. These are the characteristic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. But depression can be a very early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly a kind of apathy and flat expression.
The most common symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease are memory loss, disorientation and an inability to reason. Some people may also develop insomnia or even begin to hallucinate. Over time, the symptoms worsen until those affected by the disease can no longer take care of themselves.
Eventually, Alzheimer's disease will result in complete memory loss. There are several other symptoms to look out for as well:
  • Changes in personality
  • Trouble using language
  • Trouble performing routine daily tasks
  • An inability to think abstractly
  • Loss of judgment
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of the clinical syndrome that doctors call "dementia". Dementia means loss of the ability to think; Alzheimer's is the most common disease that causes dementia. The typical signs of Alzheimer's disease involve loss of the ability to form and retrieve new short terms memories and inability to perform complicated tasks. Patients may ask a question over and over in the same conversation. They might be able to relate old memories in great detail, but be unable to recall what they had for their most recent meal. Personality changes can also occur in Alzheimer's, as well as depression and agitation.
Eric Pfeiffer
These signs have been helpful in alerting both lay persons and professionals to the fact that a serious memory problem may exist. Here they are:
  1. Asking the same question over and over again
  2. Repeating the same story, word for word, again and again
  3. Forgetting how to cook, or how to make repairs or how to play cards—activities that were previously done with ease and regularity
  4. Losing one’s ability to pay bills or balance one’s checkbook
  5. Getting lost in familiar surroundings, or misplacing household objects
  6. Neglecting to bathe, or wearing the same clothes over and over again, while insisting that they have taken a bath or that their clothes are still clean
  7. Relying on someone else, such as a spouse, to make decisions or answer questions they previously would have handled themselves
The presence of two or three of these signs should alert you to the fact that a serious problem may exist. Four or five of these signs are definite signs of a major problem. And if all seven of these signs are observed, the person manifesting them almost definitely has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
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The Art of Caregiving in Alzheimer's Disease

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Although every case of Alzheimer's disease is different, experts have identified common warning signs of the brain disease. Remember, Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging, and it is important to look for signs that might indicate Alzheimer's disease versus basic forgetfulness or other conditions. With Alzheimer's disease, these symptoms gradually increase and become more persistent.

If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, the person should check out his or her concerns with a healthcare professional. Awareness of these warning signs is not a substitute for a consultation with a primary care provider or other qualified healthcare professional.

Typical warning signs include:
  • Memory loss, especially of recent events, names, placement of objects and other new information
  • Confusion about time and place
  • Struggling to complete familiar actions, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed 
  • Trouble finding the appropriate words, completing sentences and following directions and conversations
  • Poor judgment when making decisions
  • Changes in mood and personality, such as increased suspicion, rapid and persistent mood swings, withdrawal and disinterest in usual activities
  • Difficulty with complex mental assignments, such as balancing a budget or other tasks involving numbers
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which is a broad term used to describe the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities. A progressive disease, Alzheimer’s effects are mild at first and become more severe over time.
During the early stages, people may seem forgetful or absent-minded. As the disease progresses, they may forget how to get back to their homes or cannot recall information they‘ve been told repeatedly. Eventually, they can lose the ability to recognize or remember others, including their children and spouses. They may be unable to complete basic tasks of independent living, such as cooking, cleaning and personal care. In the late stages, they may need round-the-clock care to ensure that they eat and drink enough and don’t endanger themselves.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, and memory impairment is the key feature and most often the earliest manifestation as a symptom of Alzheimer's disease. The initial complaints are usually short-term memory problems. Initial complaints also often involve language dysfunction -- difficulty finding words. Other cognitive deficits and changes in personality and behavior appear with or after the development of memory impairment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.