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

Last Updated: August 21, 2020


Introduction: Memory Loss

Memory loss is the earliest and the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This doesn’t mean occasionally forgetting something, as everyone does from time to time; people with AD have difficulty remembering things that took place minutes, hours, and days ago.

Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, it gets worse over time. There is no cure or treatment that reverses AD’s progression (though it can be delayed), and this means that a problem like memory loss will begin as mild, seeming like normal forgetfulness, but progresses into a serious problem causing a person to lose the ability to communicate and understand surroundings.

Changes You’ll See
– Someone with memory loss might forget they already paid a bill and pay it again.
– They may not remember they were cooking something and leave the stove on.
– Objects like keys, wallet, or glasses get lost frequently.
– Normal tasks like making coffee become difficult or confusing.
– Getting lost in a familiar place.
– Forgetting a friend or family member’s name or face.
– As people with AD become aware of their forgetfulness, they may become embarrassed and/or confused, leading to symptoms described below, especially social withdrawal.

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


Symptoms and Problems in Early Alzheimer’s Disease

In the earlier stages of dementia, several signs, symptoms, and problems besides memory loss may be seen. It is often the people around a person developing dementia, rather than the person his- or herself, who notices these problems. Early diagnosis is important for effective treatment and knowing what symptoms to expect. If you spot these symptoms, make an appointment with a doctor to have them checked out or take an online assessment (for the caregiver, not the individual suspected of having Alzheimer’s).

Loss of Interest
– Hobbies, clubs, or activities a person once enjoyed will no longer bring any happiness.
– Getting motivated to pass time with others, such as friends and family, can become impossible for someone in later stages.

Speech Difficulty
– Trouble finding the right word
– Repeating the same word or phrase over and over
– Gaps in conversation

Mood Swings / Changes in Mood
– Depression: feelings of sadness or lost interest
– Paranoia: feeling threatened without any reason
– Fear
– Confusion
– Anxiety: Feeling especially nervous or affected by stress

Trouble with Familiar Tasks
– Taking longer on familiar tasks like getting dressed, combing hair, counting money, making tea, doing dishes, etc. This could be a result of memory problems, or disorientation.

Difficulty Learning or Coping with Unexpected Situations
– Learning new names, faces, and environments becomes difficult.
– Public and unexpected situations may result in confusion, anxiety, and restlessness.
– Crowds and loud noises become agitating.

Poor Judgement
– Making decisions that cause problems.
– Saying inappropriate things in social situations.
– Dressing in clothing that is wrong for the weather or social situation.
– Driving even though it may be unsafe.
– 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.
– Not knowing the time of day.
– Becoming confused or agitated at night (sundowning), due to being physically tired without mentally understanding it’s almost time for bed.


Later Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, persons with dementia may become more upset, agitated, and restless when experiencing 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 with the disease have noticeable difficulty in public settings. Completing daily living activities becomes too difficult. Also, individuals may have the following problems:

Forgetting Names
– A person with Alzheimer’s will start to forget the names and faces of even their closest friends and relatives.

Loss of Awareness and Surroundings
– Wandering, persons walk out of their house and then forget where they are. This affect about 60 percent of people with the disease. More.
– Being in crowded or loud areas will cause extreme confusion.

Loss of Bladder or Bowel Control
– Someone with later-stage dementia will lose the ability to get to the bathroom on time, resulting in accidents.
– Needs more reminders to go to the bathroom (before it’s too late).
– A person could have physical difficulty with walking to the bathroom and sitting down/standing up at the toilet.

Hallucinations and Delusions
– Hallucinations are seeing and/or hearing things that are not actually there. These are usually crawling bugs, flashing lights, or hearing voices.
– Delusions are false beliefs, like thinking that you are being poisoned or stolen from. Delusions make it difficult for a person to be reasoned with, but there are strategies that help.


Final-Stage Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

The last stage of Alzheimer’s disease unfortunately sees a person lose their ability to function. Things we take for granted, like swallowing, become impossible without help. In the final stages, the ability to eat, respond to the environment, speak and recognize speech, control movements, and perform basic life functions, even breathing, are completely impaired.