The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are very important as they guide diagnosis along with patient observation.
You may experience a gradual progression of features with initial memory loss, followed by language and spatio-temporal changes. Later in the disease, frontal lobe features such as repetitive movements and non-cognitive symptoms may occur.
Memory loss: the first symptom
Memory disorder is prevalent in over 80% of cases.
The recall of recent events or short-term memory is severely affected; however, you may find that your long-term memory is preserved for a long time.
Sometimes, you may forget to eat, shop for food or cook. This can cause weight loss in 20 to 40% of patients, which can cause other subsequent health problems (malnutrition, falls causing fractures).
You may find it difficult in recognising familiar objects, faces or places:
- Placing objects in inappropriate places, like putting your toothbrush in the refrigerator
- Confusing your relative with someone else
- Not recognising yourself in a mirror or not knowing where you are
Reduction in Judgement
You may find it more difficult to adapt to daily life: e.g. wearing summer garments in winter or warm clothing in summer.
You may not be keen to consult a doctor in the event of health problems.
You may find that you may find everyday language more challenging:
- Difficulties in oral expression and understanding
- Disturbed pronunciation
- Difficulties in finding words or using them correctly. You may find that you are substituting words for others
- Poor vocabulary
- Correct sentences can be expressed, but, put together, are meaningless in conversation
- Occasionally, you may be aphasic (don't speak at all).
- You may find writing tricky, but your reading ability is unchanged
Time: you may not know the date and time anymore.
Space: you do not recognise your own address and can get disorientated easily (get lost when going out).
Changes in Personality
Non-cognitive changes are common. You may have inappropriate attitudes and behaviours in certain locations or situations:
- You may display tears, anger, distress, anxiety and fear (worse later in the day), agitation, aggressiveness, nervousness, frustration
- Strolling and wandering : you may walk for many hours without feeling tiredness
- Hallucinations are frequent: you may believe you can see or hear things which others do not
- Disinhibition: you may act inappropriately in certain situations
- Inventing stories: you may tell stories in which real and imaginary facts are all merged
- There is no change in your ability to have feelings, joy and sadness
Apathy and Agitation
40% of people with Alzheimer's Disease may suffer from depression.
You may have loss of initiative, emotional withdrawal, and an indifference to things. You can feel sad, apathetic, with lack of energy, and not wanting to move, becoming very quickly unsociable.
You may find you can move from one mood to another, very quickly, e.g. from laughter to agitation and irritability without reason
You may be unable to performing a series of complex action or coordinated movements, and this could impact significantly your daily tasks such as getting dressed, washing, and cooking,
You may not believe you are in fact unwell, even though others around you may disagree (anosognosia).