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 3 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