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Alzheimer's Symptoms

Learn about Alzheimer's symptoms, from the early stages to the more severe stages.

Alzheimer's symptoms can sometimes be hard to detect. [© 2009, Sutterstock]
© 2009, Sutterstock
Alzheimer's symptoms can sometimes be hard to detect.

Alzheimer's disease, a progressive and degenerative brain disease, is the most common cause of dementia among older people. More than four million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer's symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Even more astonishing, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's is expected to triple by the year 2050 as the nation's population ages.

While the disease can be difficult to cope with, recognizing Alzheimer's symptoms early on can help patients learn how to improve their quality of life and delay symptoms from worsening. Take a look at some of the most common Alzheimer's symptoms.

Early Alzheimer's Symptoms

Alzheimer's symptoms are difficult to recognize in the disease's early stages because the condition worsens as it progresses. Alzheimer's sufferers may recognize that something is wrong, but might try to hide his or her problems, making it difficult for family members to recognize symptoms of the disease.

The early stage of Alzheimer's disease is marked by forgetfulness. People with the condition may make the same statement repeatedly, misplace items, have trouble remembering the names of common items, and get lost navigating routes that were once familiar. They might forget where things belong, and put them in odd places. For example, they may put clothing in the dishwasher. In addition, they could develop problems when handling money. They may be unable to balance a checkbook or pay bills, or they may simply hand over a wallet or checkbook when confronted with a bill that needs to be paid. Personality changes also take place in the early stage of Alzheimer's disease.

People with Alzheimer's sometimes become more subdued and quiet to avoid making mistakes with language. They may lose interest in others or become easily frustrated and angry and can seem to have lost their "spark."

Advanced Alzheimer's Symptoms

As Alzheimer's disease progresses, Alzheimer's symptoms become more noticeable. The afflicted person can have trouble sleeping, and hygiene changes become more apparent. Alzheimer's patients may insist that they have bathed, but wear the same clothes over and over again, while maintaining that the clothing, too, is clean.

Loss of memory also becomes more pronounced. Those with the condition may begin to forget the names of people and fail to recognize faces, even those of family members and close friends. Alzheimer's patients can lose the ability to recognize objects or possessions, which may lead them to take things from others.

People with the disease may constantly repeat words, phrases, questions or motions, or make up stories to explain the gaps in their memories during this stage of the disease. As Alzheimer's advances, personality changes also increase. The person can become paranoid or suspicious, make accusations or threats or engage in inappropriate behavior, such as hitting, kicking or biting. Depression and restlessness are common among people with Alzheimer's disease. Judgment falters, and solving common problems, such as taking burning food off the stove, becomes impossible. Performing routine tasks becomes increasingly difficult, until eventually people with Alzheimer's are unable to perform the most basic functions themselves.

Severe Alzheimer's Symptoms

During the most severe and final stages of Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's symptoms may include the inability to remember even the closest friends or family members. The afflicted lose their memory of language, and may speak only in incomprehensible gibberish.

They may forget how to stand and walk, or be too weak to do so. In the end, people suffering Alzheimer's symptoms will need assistance with every aspect of daily living. Remember that no one should have to face Alzheimer's disease alone.

Family, friends and support groups can help provide the reassurance and care that Alzheimer's sufferers need to cope with the disease. To learn more about the symptoms, causes and treatment of Alzheimer's, visit the Alzheimer's Association Web site.

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