• Symptoms of Alzheimer Disease

    Alzheimer disease progresses slowly, and changes take place gradually over time. People can live with Alzheimer disease for 3-25 years, although the average duration of the disease is about 8-10 years. In general, changes can be characterized in 3 phases.

    Early Phase

    Subtle changes occur, but the problem is sometimes hard to pinpoint. More often, family members recognize these changes rather than the patients themselves. Common changes may include:
    • Forgetfulness and attempts to hide frequent forgetting
    • Misplacing things
    • Getting lost while driving
    • Loss of interest in hobbies
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Inability to recall words
    • Decrease in sentence complexity
    • Problems with mathematical calculations
    • Getting lost in familiar surroundings
    • Difficulty with tasks that require fine motor ability, such as putting a key in the keyhole or buttoning a shirt
    • Difficulty in dealing with daily life tasks, such as managing finances, tending to household tasks, maintaining personal hygiene
    • Repeating questions and stories
    • Nonsensical wordy speech
    • Naming difficulties
    • Depressed mood

    Middle Phase

    Impairments in memory and mental functioning become more obvious. Long-term memory may still be intact, but short-term memory fails. Other changes include:
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Becoming less sociable and less aware of the feelings of others
    • Needing help in making decisions
    • Needing assistance with bathing, grooming, dressing
    • Forgetting one’s own past history of personal events
    • Personality changes, such as sudden mood shifts, anger, worry, or fearfulness

    Advanced Phase

    Abilities decline dramatically. Changes include:
    • Inability to use language
    • Becoming easily disoriented
    • Incontinence
    • Walking with a shuffle
    • Frequent falls
    • Showing minimal emotional response
    • Immobility and pain
    • Weight loss and inability to swallow
    • Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, and mood changes
    • Difficulty sleeping


    10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's. Alzheimer’s Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers%5Fdisease%5F10%5Fsigns%5Fof%5Falzheimers.asp. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114193/Alzheimer-dementia. Updated August 21, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Symptoms and diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/symptoms. Accessed October 2, 2017.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
    • Review Date: 09/2017
    • Update Date: 09/17/2014
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