What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's Disease begins slowly. At first, the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness. People with Alzheimer's Disease may have trouble remembering recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. Simple math problems may become hard to solve. Such difficulties may be a bother, but usually they are not serious enough to cause alarm. However, as the disease goes on, symptoms are more easily noticed and become serious enough to cause people with Alzheimer's Disease or their family members to seek medical help. For example, people in the later stages of Alzheimer's Disease may forget how to do simple tasks like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They can no longer think clearly. They begin to have problems speaking, understanding, reading, or writing. Later on, people with Alzheimer's Disease may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, patients need total care.


Other Causes of Dementia

Many different medical conditions may cause symptoms that seem like Alzheimer's disease, but are not. Some of these medical conditions may be treatable. Reversible conditions may be caused by a high fever, vitamin deficiencies, dehydration, poor nutrition, reaction to medication, thyroid disease, or a head injury. Medical problems like these can be serious and should be treated by your doctor.

Alzheimer's Association
KNOW the 10 SIGNS 
Early Detection Matters
  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own. What's typical? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before. What's typical? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure. People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game. What's typical? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

  4. Confusion with time or place. People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immedicately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there. What's typical? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spacial relationships. For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not recognize their own reflection. What's typical? Vision changes related to cataracts.

  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a watch a "hand clock"). What's typical? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time. What's typical? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

  8. Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. What's typical? Making a bad decision once in a while.

  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects, or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced. What's typical? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

  10. Changes in mood and personality. The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. What's typical? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.


If you have questions about any of these warning signs, the Alzheimer's Association recommends consulting a physician. Early diagnosis provides the best opportunities for treatment, support, and future planning.


Copyright 2009 Alzheimer's Association. All rights reserved.

First Stage: 2-4 years leading up to and including diagnosis.
  • Recent memory loss that begins to affect job performance.

  • Loses that spark or zest for life.

  • Loses initiative - can't start anything.

  • Mood/personality changes - patient becomes anxious about symptoms and may avoid people.

  • Poor judgment - makes bad decisions.

  • Takes longer with routine chores.

  • Trouble handling money and paying bills.

  • Loses things such as grocery lists.

  • Arrives at the wrong time or place.

  • Becomes withdrawn or disinterested.

  • She spent all day making dinner and forgot to serve some courses.

  • She paid the bills three times over or didn't pay them for 3 months.



Second Stage: 2-10 years after diagnosis (longest stage).


  • Increasing memory loss and confusion with shorter attention span.

  • Problems recognizing close friends and/or family.

  • Repetitive statements and/or movements.

  • Restless, especially in late afternoon or at night.

  • Occasional muscle twitches or jerking.

  • Difficulty organizing thoughts, thinking logically.

  • Can't find the right words - makes up stories to fill in the blanks.

  • Problems with reading, writing, and numbers.

  • May be suspicious, irritable, fidgety, teary, or silly.

  • Loss of impulse control-sloppy-won't bathe or afraid to bathe-trouble dressing.

  • Gains and then loses weight.

  • May see or hear things that are not there.

  • Needs full-time supervision.

  • May wander at night.

  • May accuse spouse of hiding things, infidelity; may act childish.

  • May undress at inappropriate times; sloppier table manners.

  • Huge appetite for junk food and other people's food.


Terminal Stage: 1-3 years.
  • Can't recognize family or self in mirror.

  • Loses weight even with good diet.

  • Little capacity for self care.

  • Can't communicate with words.

  • May put everything in mouth or touch everything.

  • Can't control bladder or bowels.

  • May have seizures, have difficulty swallowing, or skin infections.

  • May look in mirror and talk to own image.

  • May groan, scream, or make grunting sounds.

  • Needs help with bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting.

  • Sleeps more.