Loss of memory is often the first sign of the disease, though changes in mood and personality are also possible first signs. Typically, it is difficult to determine if these first problems are signs of normal aging or the beginning of a disease. The disease, however, often progresses and the cognitive problems begin to affect the person’s daily life. Eventually the person - or, more likely, a family member -will seek help.
Typically, people with Alzheimer’s disease lose memory of recent events first; later in the disease, they lose older memories. While each patient with Alzheimer’s is different, the symptoms generally fall into a few major categories.
- Cognitive problems can be the most pronounced and include difficulties with memory, thinking and reasoning.
- Patients may have problems with language, such as having difficulty finding the right words, or using the wrong word.
- Changes in personality do occur and the person suffering from Alzheimer’s can become angry, abusive or even inappropriate.
- Disorientation is also common.
- And as the disease progresses, people lose the ability to perform daily tasks.
All symptoms worsen slowly over time. Driving a car may become especially difficult because it involves orientation, rapid changes in scenery, and short term memory all at the same time.
Eventually, in the later stages
of the disease:
- Many people with Alzheimer’s experience severe insomnia, hallucinations, delusion, and paranoia.
- Distant past memories begin to fade.
- As the disease affects other areas of the brain, people lose the ability to walk and become incontinent, unable to swallow, eat, or even speak.
- They become bedridden and eventually die of respiratory failure or infection or some other complication.