What are the most common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease that contribute to its diagnosis?

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Answered by: Rose, An Expert in the Diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease Category
Alzheimer's disease progresses slowly. It’s a neurodegenerative disease that can take up to two decades to run its course. Knowing the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease helps one to know whether a medical evaluation is warranted. Early intervention is critical. Medications and cognitive interventions can aid in preserving brain function longer.

Memory Loss

The most notable symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. A mild decline in memory can be expected with normal aging. However, memory loss that affects daily living is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. It is usually one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease reported by patients or their caregivers. Learning new information tends to be the area of memory affected the most. In general, a person may have difficulty learning the names of new people or forget appointments easily. He may also continually lose everyday objects such as keys or glasses. As the disease progresses, more serious situations could arise such as leaving the stove on or eating old food.

Difficulties with Problem-Solving

Alzheimer's disease causes a decline in an area known as executive function. This includes problem-solving, planning, organizing, and reasoning skills. Deficits in this area can result in difficulties balancing a check book, managing other finances, or even cooking dinner. This is usually a contrast to earlier behavior where the person never had difficulty completing such tasks. Poor decision-making may also be noticeable. For example, a family member may notice a loved one making excessive purchases that their budget cannot sustain.

Visuospatial Deficits

Difficulties seeing the spatial relationships among things can occur early on in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Driving independently can become an extreme hazard due to the visuospatial deficit causing tremendous difficulty navigating. You often hear of a missing elderly person that has wandered off. This is usually due to the person becoming disoriented while on route to a destination. This can be very dangerous for individuals who still live by themselves in an area with potential hazards such as cliffs or heavy traffic.

Language Difficulties

Language difficulty is one of the more common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. A person may begin to struggle having conversations. While speaking, they may have trouble finding the right words to form a sentence. They may also have trouble coming up with the names of items they recognize. Understanding the content of magazine articles or having difficulty writing out sentences can also occur.

Changes in Mood and Personality

The Alzheimer's Association reports that people with Alzheimer's disease can experience mood and personality changes. They can become suspicious, withdrawn, depressed, or anxious. This is all a change from their usual temperament.

Trouble Completing Daily Tasks

As the disease progresses to its more severe stages, a person will usually start to have trouble completing easy routine daily activities. They start to have difficulty bathing, grooming and even getting dressed. A person will need full-time care once they have reached this level of impairment. Knowing the symptoms of alzheimer’s disease allows a person and his caregivers the opportunity to plan in advance for this situation.

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