Common early symptoms of Alzheimer's are:
- disturbances in short-term memory
- problems with attention and spatial orientation
- personality changes
- language difficulties
- unexplained mood swings
It is important to understand that Alzheimer’s disease does not affect every patient in the same way. The stages listed below represent the general progression of the disease.
Early: Early in the illness, Alzheimer's patients tend to have less energy and spontaneity, though often no one notices anything unusual. They exhibit minor memory loss and mood swings, and are slow to learn and react. After a while they start to shy away from anything new and prefer the familiar. Memory loss begins to affect job performance. The patient is confused, gets lost easily, and exercises poor judgment.
Mid: In this stage, the Alzheimer's victim can still perform tasks independently, but may need assistance with more complicated activities. Speech and understanding become slower, and patients often lose their train of thought in mid-sentence. They may also get lost while travelling or forget to pay bills. As Alzheimer's victims become aware of this loss of control, they may become depressed, irritable and restless. The individual is clearly becoming disabled. The distant past may be recalled, while recent events are difficult to remember. Advancing Alzheimer's has affected the victim's ability to comprehend where they are, the day and the time. Caregivers must give clear instructions and repeat them often. As the Alzheimer's victims mind continues to slip away, the patient may invent words and not recognize familiar faces.
Late: During the final stage, patients lose the ability to chew and swallow. The very essence of the person is vanishing. Memory is now very poor and no one is recognizable. Patients lose bowel and bladder control, and eventually need constant care. They become vulnerable to pneumonia, infection and other illnesses. Respiratory problems worsen, particularly when the patient becomes bedridden. This terminal stage eventually leads to death.
Some of the information in this section of our website was obtained from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, the World Health Organization, the National Center for Health Statistics and AHAF