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What Do The Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease Look Like?

One in ten people age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease – an estimated 5.8 million Americans. This disease affects people in dramatic, life-changing ways. Not just those who have Alzheimer’s, but their family, friends and caretakers as well. Although there is no known cure, there are ways to make the disease more manageable, starting with recognizing Alzheimer’s symptoms as early as possible.

Stages of Alzheimer’s

In broad terms, Alzheimer’s disease progresses in three stages throughout a person’s lifetime – early Alzheimer’s, middle, and late stage Alzheimer’s. The rate at which the stages of Alzheimer’s occur vary widely from person to person, but the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s are very much the same. In the medical field, the Global Deterioration Scale is used to determine specific stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

 But to make that determination, it’s important to ask, “What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?”  Of course, it’s imperative to talk with your physician. A medical expert  who is best equipped to help you identify and understand potential symptoms, but as a leading memory support community, we believe you’ll find this information helpful.

A senior woman looks at her brain scans with a doctor

Stage 1 Symptoms

This stage is called “early Alzheimer’s.” It can be diagnosed at any age, often earlier than people suspect. Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize early Alzheimer’s symptoms when they arise. These symptoms can continue for years. Because they go undiagnosed, early intervention is often missed, and people with dementia often function independently. They may still drive, go to work, socialize, and act normally except for a few key warning signs. Lapses in memory or other memory problems begin to occur, including:

  • Recalling the right word or name for something
  • Remembering the names of people they’ve just met
  • Finding it difficult to perform routine tasks in social or work settings
  • Forgetting information they’ve just read
  • Misplacing commonly used items or forgetting where they put something
  • Beginning to struggle with planning and organizing

Early recognition of these symptoms can make all the difference in the longevity of a person with Alzheimer’s. The sooner a person is diagnosed, the more effective treatments are in delaying the next two stages. And, the sooner the family can begin to make plans and  preparations for the journey ahead.

An elderly man is deep in thought while looking out a window

Stage 2 Symptoms

This is the “moderate” middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s normally the longest stage and tends to be the stage where Alzheimer’s symptoms grow. Behavioral changes also become more severe during this stage and eventually require greater levels of care for the person with Alzheimer’s. Throughout this stage nerve cells in the brain deteriorate, making the expression of thoughts and performing of daily tasks increasingly difficult. Stage 2 symptoms usually include:

  • Trouble remembering personal history or events
  • ​Feelings of isolation, especially in socially or mentally strenuous situations
  • Memory loss relating to things like their address or telephone number
  • Confusion about where they are or what season it is
  • Needing assistance with activities of daily living such as choosing proper clothing,  and even remembering to eat regularly
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night
  • Problems with incontinence and proper hygiene
  • Increased tendencies to wander
  • Personality and behavioral changes, including paranoia, delusions, or compulsive, repetitive behavior

During Stage 2, a person with Alzheimer’s can sometimes still perform routine activities and will likely want to keep as much of their independence as possible. It’s critical at this stage that caretakers and family members encourage independence in a safe way by finding exactly what activities the person needs help with and which they can do by themselves. Many families consider, and most physicians recommend, moving the person with Alzheimer’s into a memory care community to get the proper 24-hour care they need.

A health care professional talks with an elderly woman

Stage 3 Symptoms

People in late stage Alzheimer’s are typically unable to respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s symptoms are most severe and evident in everyday life at this stage. Conversing with others, remembering basic facts about their life, and even controlling their own movement becomes difficult. Behavioral changes like increased aggression, depression and feelings of isolation are also common. At this stage, extensive care is usually a necessity around the clock. Memory loss can be so severe that a person with Alzheimer’s may not remember where they are or who their family members are. It’s at this stage that family and friends are most emotionally impacted. Symptoms of late stage Alzheimer’s include:

  • The necessity for around-the-clock assistance with daily personal care
  • ​A loss of environmental awareness
  • Changes in physical abilities, including walking, sitting and, eventually, swallowing
  • Severe difficulty communicating
  • Increased vulnerability to infections, especially pneumonia

Alzheimer’s symptoms stages can drastically vary depending on the person and how early they are diagnosed. Families quite often struggle with deciding the best options for their loved one with Alzheimer’s. At The Ridge Senior Living, we are personally vested in this struggle.

Our memory care communities in Lakewood, CO, Salt Lake City, UT, and Holladay, UT are rooted in a reverence for every resident’s personal story. The Ridge team members are specially trained in how to converse with dementia patients, how to maximize independence for people with Alzheimer’s, and how to work with families to provide the best possible care for their loved ones. Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s symptoms present unique challenges that require unique care. We can help. To learn more, contact us through our website or call us at 1.877.894.9008.