Typically, loved ones notice gradual -- not sudden -- changes in a person who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. It usually takes months to realize that something serious might be wrong.

The affected individual may not be aware of these changes, but at first, friends, relatives, and co-workers notice that the person:

Is increasingly and persistently forgetful
Has mild personality changes
Has minor disorientation
Frequently loses or misplaces familiar items
Has mild difficulties finding the right word (aphasia)
Has mild difficulties performing arithmetic calculations

As the disease progresses to moderate Alzheimer's disease, the person:
Has noticeable memory loss
Frequently uses words inappropriately
Begins to lose the ability to perform normal tasks of daily living involving muscle coordination, such as cooking, dressing, bathing, shopping, or balancing a checkbook (apraxia)
May wander off, become agitated, confuse day and night, and fail to recognize friends and relatives with whom they are not very close
Loses the ability to recognize and use familiar objects, such as clothing (agnosia)

In the final stage of severe Alzheimer's disease, the affected individual:
Becomes uncomprehending and mute
Loses all self-care ability
Becomes incontinent
Is unable to feed, dress, and bathe him- or herself
If the person has a sudden onset of these symptoms -- or early symptoms such as seizures, gait problems, or loss of vision and coordination -- it's less likely that they indicate Alzheimer's.


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