Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease vary greatly from person to person, but a few general symptoms can be distinguished. The symptoms are closely related to the various stages of the disease.Early stage
During this period, usually the first two to four years, symptoms are slow and gradual and can be mistaken for the normal ageing process.
Early signs of memory loss characterise this period and may include forgetting names or events. Affected people may also have difficulty following directions and be disoriented.
Changes in their normal behaviour and personality can be noted and they’re no longer able to perform routine tasks.
In this stage, people may suddenly lose their inhibitions, no longer be able to solve simple problems and have trouble with figures. Adapting to simple changes becomes a problem and the afflicted may become confused and disoriented, not knowing what month or year it is and not being able to describe accurately where they live or recall correctly the name of a place recently visited.
Emotionally, Alzheimer’s sufferers become increasingly suspicious and paranoid. They can no longer control their anger, frustration or inappropriate behaviour and become increasingly quarrelsome, irritable and agitated. They can also no longer dress appropriately and often neglect personal appearance.
Severe impairment of intellectual abilities is typical of the final stage of the disease.
Physical functioning deteriorates and sufferers become incontinent (unable to control bowel and bladder function). They can no longer engage in conversation, they’re erratic and inattentive and appear uncooperative.
In the final stage, they become incapable of looking after themselves and become bedridden or wheelchair-bound. They’re often not able to feed themselves and have to be fed. Death is usually the result of pneumonia or another illness that occurs when health has deteriorated severely.
When to see a doctor
If a family member or friend displays signs of Alzheimer’s disease over time, you must call your doctor.
The person may have a lack of insight that’s characterised by not knowing that he or she has the disease and denying the assistance of other people. The affected person may have to be persuaded to visit a doctor for help.