Symptoms Commonly Seen in Alzheimer’s Disease in the Earlier & Later Stages of Dementia

Last Updated: August 30, 2018


Memory loss is the earliest sign and the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This doesn’t mean occasionally forgetting something, as everyone does from time to time. Rather, people with AD have difficulty remembering things that took place minutes, hours, and days ago. This may mean they might forget they already paid a bill and pay it again, or they may not remember they were cooking something and leave the stove on. As people with AD become aware of their forgetfulness, they may become embarrassed and/or confused. In addition to memory loss, there are other early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, although not everyone may have the same symptoms.

If you are concerned you or your loved one may be showing signs of early Alzheimer’s, you might be interested in learning about diagnosing the condition and the tests available for Alzheimers’ and other dementias.


Signs, Symptoms, and Problems One Might Notice In Early Alzheimer’s Disease

In the earlier stages of dementia, there are several signs, symptoms, and problems that may be seen. These include the following:

  • Speech difficulty – Trouble finding the right words, saying the same word or phrase over and over, or gaps in conversation.
  • Mood swings / Changes in mood – Expressing symptoms of depression, paranoia, fear, confusion, and/or anxiety.
  • Trouble with familiar tasks – Taking longer on routine tasks, such as getting dressed, combing hair, counting out money, etc.
  • Difficulty learning new things or coping with unexpected situations – Learning new names, faces, and environment becomes difficult. Public and unexpected situations may result in confusion, anxiety, and restlessness.
  • Poor judgment/decision making – Giving money or personal items away to strangers, family members, or friends without wanting to do so.
  • Disorientation to time and place – Confusion about the location of familiar places, like finding one’s house, or knowing the time of day.


Later Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

As AD progresses, persons with dementia may become more upset, agitated, and restless when he/she begins experiencing more problems with communication (both speaking and understanding what is said), orientation (both to place and time), and recent and long-term memory. In the later stages of AD, persons inflicted with the disease will begin to have noticeable difficulty in public settings and completing daily living activities. Also, individuals may have the following problems:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies, clubs, or activities he/she previously enjoyed
  • Lack of desire to pass time with others, such as friends and families
  • Forgetting the names of family members
  • Loss of awareness of surroundings
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control (incontinence)

Some of the behavioral problems that may occur later in the disease include wandering, suspicion, hallucinations and delusions, and compulsive or repetitive actions, such as repetitively asking the same questions or repeatedly opening and closing the pantry door. In the final stages, the ability to eat, respond to the environment, speak and recognize speech, control movements, and perform basic life functions, such as breathing and swallowing, are completely impaired.