Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease progress slowly over several years. They are often similar to those of other conditions and may initially be put down to old age.
Generally, the symptoms of Alzheimers disease are divided into three main stages
- forget about recent conversations or events
- forget the names of places and objects
- repeat themselves regularly, such as asking the same question several times
- show poor judgement or find it harder to make decisions
- become unwilling to try out new things or adapt to change
Middle stage symptoms
- increasing confusion and disorientation – for example, not knowing where they are and walking off and getting lost
- obsessive, repetitive or impulsive behaviour
- delusions (believing things that are untrue)
- problems with speech or language (aphasia)
- disturbed sleep (such as muddling up time and getting up at night because they are mixing up night and day)
- changes in mood, such as frequent mood swings, depression and feeling increasingly anxious, frustrated or agitated
- difficulty performing spatial tasks, such as judging distances
- problems with eyesight, such as poor vision or hallucinations (seeing things that are not there)
- difficulty eating and swallowing (dysphagia)
- difficulty changing position or moving around without assistance
- considerable weight loss (although some people eat too much and put on weight)
- unintentional passing of urine (urinary incontinence) or stools (bowel incontinence)
- gradual loss of speech
- significant problems with short- and long-term memory
Dementias are the third or fourth most common group of diseases affecting individuals sixty-five years of age or older. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for more than 50 percent of the cases of dementia. Every person experiences dementia in their own way. The progression of this deteriorating disease can be understood as a series of stages. The stages are early, middle and advanced (late). Although a useful guide, it should be noted that each person’s experience will be different.
- Dementia is a set of symptoms caused by a range of conditions.
- Dementia is a neurodegenerative disorder – there is progressive brain destruction over time.
- Over 100 different diseases can cause dementia (eg. Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Vascular disease).
- Alzheimer’s disease is the main or most common cause of dementia.
- Dementia is associated with ageing but it is not a normal part of ageing.
- There is some normal deterioration in memory with ageing but, in dementia, memory loss tends to be more profound and progressive.
- Dementia appears differently across its course. It has stages, we call them early, middle (moderate) and advanced dementia (amended from clip) and in the early stages we do often see that progressive memory loss that you mentioned earlier. We might see changes in mood, we might see people withdrawing from social engagements, particularly if they’ve got insight into their loss of capacity.
- As the condition progresses, in the middle stages we see an acceleration of some of those symptoms, so people are more forgetful, they’re forgetting where the car park is, not just where the car is parked. They might do things like leave the stove on, as well as other unusual behaviours. They may also show some personality changes.
- Ultimately, in the advanced stages the person may forget their loved ones. They may retain memory of the past but then ultimately lose that. In the very advanced stages we do see physical manifestations. We see loss of mobility, loss of capacity to speak, so that the person is profoundly physically and mentally disabled at that end stage.