Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

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
REFERENCES:

10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's. Alzheimer’s Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.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.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD  Last Updated: 9/17/2014