Alzheimer's Disease - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?

The onset of Alzheimer's disease is usually gradual, and it is slowly progressive. Memory problems that family members initially dismiss as "a normal part of aging" are in retrospect noted by the family to be the first stages of Alzheimer's disease. When memory and other problems with thinking start to consistently affect the usual level of functioning; families begin to suspect that something more than "normal aging" is going on.

Problems of memory, particularly for recent events (short-term memory) are common early in the course of Alzheimer's disease. For example, the individual may, on repeated occasions, forget to turn off an iron or fail to recall which of the morning's medicines were taken. Mild personality changes, such as less spontaneity, apathy, and a tendency to withdraw from social interactions, may occur early in the illness.

As the disease progresses, problems in abstract thinking and in other intellectual functions develop. The person may begin to have trouble with figures when working on bills, with understanding what is being read, or with organizing the day's work. Further disturbances in behavior and appearance may also be seen at this point, such as agitation, irritability, quarrelsomeness, and a diminishing ability to dress appropriately.

Later in the course of the disorder, affected individuals may become confused or disoriented about what month or year it is, be unable to describe accurately where they live, or be unable to name a place being visited. Eventually, patients may wander, be unable to engage in conversation, erratic in mood, uncooperative, and lose bladder and bowel control. In late stages of the disease, persons may become totally incapable of caring for themselves. Death can then follow, perhaps from pneumonia or some other problem that occurs in severely deteriorated states of health. Those who develop the disorder later in life more often die from other illnesses (such as heart disease) rather than as a consequence of Alzheimer's disease.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: concerned, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: May 07

My father used to be a very talkative man. He is now 87 years old, and he forgets many things. He repeatedly asks to go home. He wants to plant his garden. My mother was taking care of him until recently when she was trying to get in the car and the door was stuck in the snow bank, and she told him to wait while she shut the door. He didn't wait and knocked her over, breaking her hip. He got out of the car and asked what she was doing on the ground. She told him she had asked him to wait until she shut the door; he yelled at her and said she was lying. He was taking junk mail to his banker thinking it was important papers, and meanwhile, he was throwing the important papers away. He was sending money to everybody that he got junk mail from. Most of the family is quite a distance from my dad and caring for him at home has become impossible for my mother. He doesn't remember from day to day what is going on, doesn't remember to eat, doesn't remember to do his personal cares. Tells everyone that he should still be able to drive but doesn't remember where he lived for 42 years. This is the most awful disease I have had to deal with. How frustrating for him it must be that you know you know something but can't remember it. He has now started to wander away from the assisted-living facility and is angry at everyone. He said his family is out to get him. I only hope the good Lord gives us all the strength to deal with this -- especially my father.

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Comment from: julie, 75 or over Female (Caregiver) Published: January 14

My mother is 80 and she has Alzheimer's. In the last 3 years she has on occasion (4-5 times) just fallen unconscious. She stays that way for around 12 hours then wakes up as normal as she was before. Her doctor says this is not a stroke, she has no lasting damage and she has had x-rays to check for blockages, all in all nothing was found.

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