progresses slowly, and changes take place gradually over time. People can live with Alzheimer’s 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.
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 forgettingMisplacing thingsGetting lost while drivingLoss of interest in hobbiesDifficulty concentratingInability to recall wordsDecrease in sentence complexityProblems with mathematical calculationsGetting lost in familiar surroundingsDifficulty with tasks that require fine motor ability, such as putting a key in the keyhole or buttoning a shirtDifficulty in dealing with daily life tasks, such as managing finances, tending to household tasks, maintaining personal hygieneRepeating questions and storiesNonsensical wordy speechNaming difficultiesDepressed mood
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 sleepingBecoming less sociable and less aware of the feelings of othersNeeding help in making decisionsNeeding assistance with bathing, grooming, dressingForgetting one’s own past history of personal eventsPersonality changes, such as sudden mood shifts, anger, worry, or fearfulness
Abilities decline dramatically. Changes include:
Inability to use languageBecoming easily disorientedIncontinenceWalking with a shuffleFrequent fallsShowing minimal emotional responseImmobility and painWeight loss and inability to swallowAgitation, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, and mood changesDifficulty sleeping
Last reviewed September 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD
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