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VNA of Care New England
by Badash M

Symptoms of Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimers disease progresses slowly, and changes take place gradually over time. People can live with Alzheimers 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%5Fdisease%5F10%5Fsigns%5Fof%5Falzheimers.asp. Accessed September 6, 2013.
About Alzheimer's disease: Symptoms. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/symptoms. Accessed September 6, 2013.
Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 19, 2013. Accessed September 6, 2013.

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