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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 three 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:

Alzheimer’s Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org .

National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov .



Last reviewed September 2014 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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