Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are lapses with memory.

At first, these lapses may be infrequent and inconsistent, but over time they become more regular. As the disease progresses, new symptoms will present themselves, such as uncontrollable anxiety, fear, confusion, and anger. Mood swings occur for no apparent reason. Judgment becomes impaired. Familiar-even simple-tasks, such as boiling water, become difficult. And misplacing possessions becomes a regular occurrence.

These could be viewed as inconveniences, as mild cognitive impairments. But the disease is far more debilitating than what these beginning stages reveal. As the disease progresses, mobility becomes limited. Eating becomes something often forgotten. Speaking becomes difficult, or even impossible. Increasing neurological damage can result in heart attack, stroke, and other common causes of death. Researchers now believe that Alzheimer’s disease begins to develop in the brain up to 20 years before the first symptoms occur, and that deterioration can continue for 10 to 20 years after diagnosis. It is a slow, painful, costly disease … and it is always fatal.

Virtually everyone experiences some subtle memory troubles as they get older. This is a normal part of the ageing process, and a factor that makes it particularly difficult to identify Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.
The classic distinction with Alzheimer’s disease is that one of the very earliest symptoms is difficulty in forming new memories- what will appear to be short-term memory loss. Other early signs can be location confusion (not recognizing familiar surroundings or becoming easily lost), difficulty with words, and trouble with basic math.

The most definitive method for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is the examination of brain tissue after death. However, using the following methods, doctors can provide an accurate diagnosis to a living person:

  • Ruling out other possible problems through standard medical tests and brain scans (CT or MRI) paired with an evaluation of the patient’s medical history
  • Testing cerebrospinal fluid for levels of tau proteins (the presence of which indicate Alzheimer’s pathology) through lumbar puncture, which is a minimally invasive procedure
  • Conducting tests to evaluate short-term and long-term memory, problem-solving skills, attention span, counting, and language
  • Asking questions about behavior and ability to carry out daily activities


While Alzheimer’s disease typically manifests itself first as a problem with retrieving recent events, other symptoms will eventually appear and gradually progress. It is important to understand that the disease affects everyone differently.

Common early-stage symptoms include escalating issues with learning and memory, as well as language problems (such as a shrinking vocabulary).

In the next stage of the disease, learning and memory continues to deteriorate. There may be a loss of reading and writing skills, and difficulty with complex motor tasks.

It is also common at this stage to see changes in behavior and personality, as well as a condition known as sundowning, which presents as increased confusion and unrest in the evening.

In the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, language is limited or non-existent, memory loss is significant, and mobility is seriously impaired. Behavioral changes are generally manifested as apathy and inactivity. People with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease are completely reliant on caregivers for everyday needs such as feeding, bathing, and movement.

The Cleveland Clinic created this summary of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms:

  • Memory Loss
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Misplacing things
  • Trouble performing familiar tasks
  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Poor or decreased judgment
  • Impaired communication
  • Inability to follow directions
  • Problems with language
  • Impaired visuospatial skills
  • Social withdrawal and less willingness to interact with others
  • Loss of motivation or initiative