Alzheimer's Symptoms and Difficult Behaviors

Common symptoms: When they happen, why they happen, and what you can do
mid-stage

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Mild-stage Alzheimer's symptoms

During mild-stage Alzheimer's, your loved one will likely be able to manage his or her basic self-care -- what experts refer to as activities of daily living (ADLs) and communicate with you and others fairly well. However, problems with memory or other mental functioning will begin interfering with your loved one's ability to manage instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) -- complex skills usually learned during the teenage years -- such as managing finances, driving, meal preparation, and managing medications.

Memory symptoms

The ability to retain immediate memories will increasingly affect your loved one's short-term thinking. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do:

Other thinking skills

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

Brain changes will increasingly affect many cognitive (thinking) skills beyond memory. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do:

Emotions and social life

Awareness that something seems wrong, plus the effort of compensating for brain changes, will increasingly affect your loved one's mood and behavior -- often in ways that might surprise you or that you might not associate with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do:

Self-care symptoms

Skills erode subtly during mild-stage Alzheimer's, but in most cases it will still be possible for your loved one to handle basic needs -- such as getting dressed, toileting, and eating -- without much, if any, help. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do:

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

Are you seeing a symptom not on this list? Tell us, so we can add it.

Moderate-stage Alzheimer's symptoms

During moderate-stage Alzheimer's, your loved one will no longer be able to manage the complex instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), such as driving or managing money, without significant help -- if at all. Deterioration of mental functioning means that he or she will increasingly need help with even simpler self-care tasks known as the activities of daily living (ADLs) -- basic skills first learned in early childhood, such as grooming, bathing, dressing, and toileting. You may see odd or surprising behaviors that can be challenging to deal with.

Memory symptoms

New memories, for the most part, will no longer be retained, and recent memory will shrink, too, so that your loved one's recollections of the distant past will become more vivid than more recent events and faces. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do:

Other thinking skills

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

More than memory will be altered; many aspects of higher-order thinking will no longer function well. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do:

Emotions and social life

Awareness of having dementia will seem gone, but your loved one will remain vulnerable to frustration, fear, anger, and other emotions (both positive and negative). These feelings are often expressed as problem behaviors. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do:

Self-care symptoms

Your loved one will need help handling most basic care tasks. He or she may still perform some skills with help, while other skills will require almost constant monitoring, coaching, and assistance. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do:

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

Are you seeing a symptom not on this list? Tell us, so we can add it.

Severe-stage Alzheimer's symptoms

By severe-stage Alzheimer's, your loved one will be unable to perform even the common activities of daily living, such as self-feeding, grooming, and toileting. Increasingly, the most basic life skills, like those learned in the first years of life -- speech, mobility, continence -- will be affected. This change requires constant, active care.

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Memory symptoms

Limited communication will make it hard to assess your loved one's mental state, but few if any memories -- recent ones or those from early life -- will be apparent. Click on the symptom below to learn more about what to expect and what to do.

Other thinking skills

Brain changes will progress to the point where all cognitive skills will be significantly impaired. This makes communication challenging. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do.

Emotions and social life

Despite a limited ability to connect at this stage of Alzheimer's, the person beneath the illness will probably still be evident at times. It takes increasing skill and effort to "read" mood and personality. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do.

Self-care symptoms

Brain changes will lead to other physical changes that make 24-hour care necessary. Click on any of the symptoms, below, to learn more about what to expect and what to do.

Are you seeing a symptom not on this list? Tell us, so we can add it.


12 days ago, said...

This is the most comprehensive article, or should we say "medical & social familial study", on this terrible problem... from early stages of Alzheimer's or Dementia to the final critical stages -- all of which I experienced personally with my grandfather who passed at 98, and held up OK until the last year, when he couldn't even recognize me any more, which was the most painful thing, and he had to be tied down in his chair because he couldn't control his physical movements. Terrible thing to go through. Dementia & Alzheimer's cause so many terrible problems amidst family groups -- and not just medical costs and difficult personal attention challenges causing stress among family members. The one issue not delved into in detail here -- I found all about the hard way... that mental problems and blocks arising from Dementia or Alzheimer's also cause heirs to go missing from Wills -- in my case, my grandfather forgot to add two heirs into the will, and I'm sure it was due to Dementia. And unclaimed inheritance assets that were abandoned or went missing due to severe memory lapses. From what I have researched, these problems from Dementia or Alzheimer's usually seem to call for a serious heir locator service or heir finder group to begin locating missing heirs or locating beneficiaries to an unclaimed estate. I can clearly see that forgotten items such as leaving heirs out of a Will accidentally... or forgetting lucrative assets and financial funds, or losing and forgetting paperwork to life insurance policies and savings bonds -- often lead back to Dementia or Alzheimer's and frequently call for probate & estate research professionals that know a great deal about heir search solutions and forensic genealogy... The really good probate research firms can identify and locate missing heirs and beneficiaries to unclaimed estates or unclaimed inheritance assets... An unclaimed inheritance is not easily identified, and I’d say requires top level probate research investigation to find missing heirs and to prove "kinship determination" not to mention inheritance recovery -- locating missing inheritance assets that have been forgotten by folks with Dementia problems... Pro groups like the American Research Bureau, or www.arb.com, or maybe www.heirfinder.com, staff lots of forensic genealogists, probate researchers and document specialists that can help to identify and locate missing heirs or find unknown heirs who are unaware of their inheritance -- a problem with the estate my grandfather left. And a good heir finder service or heir locator service can prevent fraudulent inheritance claims by connecting legitimate heirs with their unclaimed inheritance assets. I’ve decided that without a top notch heir locator or heir finder or inheritance recovery outfit, we can forget about finding missing heirs or locating unclaimed inheritance assets, implementing successful inheritance recovery. We just can’t do it ourselves.


about 1 month ago, said...

With respect to your article on hallucinations, my wife was having them and we were told by doctors that they can be associated with a UTI. Treatment for UTI happened and no more hallucinations.. Mr. Bill


5 months ago, said...

Thats astonishing...


5 months ago, said...

Thats interesting


7 months ago, said...

Hi Paula Spencer Scott, You have published a nice content. Alzheimer's creates problems with memory or other mental functioning system. You have fairly described its symptoms here.


7 months ago, said...

My mom was diagnosed with Dementia 9 years ago and has the majority of the Alzheimer's severe stages symptoms. Plus she has stopped eating. I'm told (she in a nursing home) she will eat breakfast occasionally but no lunch or dinner. Is still drinking water and grape juice but only about 12-18 oz daily. My question is how long will her body sustain her? I visit 3 or 4 times a week but she doesn't know me; hasn't for 10 or more months. She knows she has a daughter names Margie but I'm not it. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to watch her deteriorate.


8 months ago, said...

Where are recent conversations?


8 months ago, said...

We have been told my husband could have LBD or Alzheimer's. When I read symptoms he has some from every stage. He has never been a big talker but now he seldom says anything. He has seemed very agitated.. He is tearing paper into very small pieces and will scatter them around then try to sweep them up with his foot. I have tried to get him interested in doing something else but it does not hold his attention long.


10 months ago, said...

My husband strokes himself on the leg while driving and watching TV.


about 1 year ago, said...

Hafa Adai Ms. Scott. Your piece is interesting as well as informative. I would love to say I enjoyed it but I cannot. It sadly showed me the things in my wife of lots of years I did not want to see. She has passed from stage to stage just as your article says. A majority of folks we know tell me she should be in some kind of care facility. It is something I just cannot bring myself to do. That wonderful gal married a drunken-bum more than 40 years ago. She gave up her friends, family, and even her country to be with me. It is said one person cannot change another, in our case that was true. Instead she made me want to change, and I did, for the better. We both worked long and hard to enjoy getting old together. She no longer recognizes our sons, and the jury is still out on if she knows me. She does recognize me. Please continue your work to educate folks on this terrible disease. Thank you for the article. Stumper- Pilot in Almost-Paradise.


over 1 year ago, said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL OF YOUR ARTICLES! THEY ARE SO HELPFUL. I FEEL BLESSED TO HAVE YOU IN MY CORNER!!!


over 1 year ago, said...

Truly helpful,thank you. Some solutions I figured out, others were new to me. Patience from the carer is a hard lesson to learn!


almost 2 years ago, said...

Oh so wish I had help with these things before now. You seem honest, well-studied, straight-forward and most of all, caring. I read for the comfort of knowing that I was right about my parents, but my siblings used it to their advantage...and my exclusion. The heartache will be with me for the rest of my life.


about 2 years ago, said...

My mother has alzheimer and she's constantly laughing, uncontrollably and inappropriately. We lived and grew up till I was 11 in the same street as Tom Jones, my mother knew him all his young days, now she has a total fixation about him (not in a good way) but her conversation with us and her carers is constantly about him, along with David Cameron and Simon Cowell, but mostly Tom. Has anyone else noticed these symptoms. The laughing is proper belly laugh, so bad she's gasping for breath, but she laughs at tragedy too. Her swallowing is bad, she's totally incontinent and she struggles to walk. I would appreciate if anyone knew from this they could tell me what stage she's at.


about 2 years ago, said...

Under thinking skills, I would add "Short Attention Span". She may be looking at something or pointing to something, then all of a sudden TV will get her attention or someone walking by will distract her.


about 2 years ago, said...

Helps me to understand which behaviors are due to alzheimers and which might be due to something else. Also helps to be aware of other symptoms I might see.


over 2 years ago, said...

This is a great article. I have early onset Alzheimer and this article is very helpful to my family and me. Thank you.


almost 3 years ago, said...

It confirms my fears of becoming like my mother, I answered yes to almost all the symtoms mentioned. My difficulty is that my loved ones do not admit my problems.


almost 3 years ago, said...

This is by far the best article on the different stages of behavior of a person with Alzheimer's. My sister experienced all of these things as her disease progressed. Thank you so much for submitting this for everyone to read and understand.


almost 3 years ago, said...

General info. It helped me to understand why and reminded me how to deal with behaviors.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Hello Everyone, Thank you for your patience. The technical issue is fixed.


almost 3 years ago, said...

I'm the director of a senior assistance agency called HELPMATE. It's useful to refresh my knowledge of Alzheimer's symptoms from time to time to stay at the top of my game to be of maximum assistance to my clientele. Robert C. Visconti


almost 3 years ago, said...

Hello, Thank you for letting us know of the error you are experiencing. We are doing our best to have this issue resolved in a timely manner. We will keep you updated. Thanks.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Hi Lostinthisfamily - I can read the pain in your posting so well. Here is what I wish I could hug you and say. Your siblings, their children, and your Mother are who they are, and are unlikely to change at this point in their lives. With that in mind, you have a choice - accept how they are and make sure that you life your life as an example to the world of the loving daughter that you are. The other choice is what you are doing now - ripping yourself apart trying to receive approval/acknowledgement from people that just don't care. Easy - absolutely not! Will you fall back and rip yourself apart - absolutely. Is it important that you remain a whole, caring person that gives to her Mother unselfishly - absolutely! Do what is right for you (caring, doing the small un-noticed things), and forget the rest. If your niece rubs the same lotion on your Mom - great! It's benefitting Mom. Credit is not as important as doing what is right and controlling what you can (in your case - caring for Mom when you can, and forgetting about who says what the 'others' do). Ripping yourself apart affects only you - they just don't notice or care. We, your friends at Caring.com, do care about you, and want you to know that we love and care for you and hurt right along with you, but know that you are important and a loving daughter/sister/aunt.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Thank you CA Claire for your kind words. I guess, in all honesty, my situation is just a magnification of the same scenario I've lived with all my life...the difference now is that I have trouble accepting it so blatantly in my face. I've accepted the fact that Mom & sis are so much alike, share interests, beliefs, and much love....a very nice bond between them. When younger, I was made to feel like my differences were funny and sometimes odd or not normal because I wasn't like them. I tried to be more like them for yrs because of it & became frustrated with myself at most attempts... Wondered why I couldn't be better at sewing, interested in reading, more of a homebody.....I failed & had trouble knowing & liking myself. I was never what you'd call jealous...just confused with myself. I accepted their relationship but still never became close to my Mom because she never saw me for me or loved me for my differences. As a result, I think I was a better Mom to my own kids in that I love them each for who they are unconditionally so that's the positive here. I can accept this situation more readily by dissociating myself as I have for years. I'm just there and that's it....the way it's always been. I haven't loved Mom for who she is either so the feeling is mutual I guess. What else would I do if I can't be someone I'm not? I do want to help but I'm not putting myself out there to be ridiculed over & over again each time. Yes, I will regret not being able to make her smile but its fruitless...a catch 22. She's happy just the way it is and my sister is who she wants so nothing has changed and at this point in life how can it :-) I accept but it hurts now for some reason. Why so much now? I've learned to love & accept myself finally despite their own beliefs and guess what...I'm the odd man out so why bother? They would both deny this favoritism vehemently and say my perspective is skewed. Believe me, I've soul searched and beaten myself up long enough trying to view it as my own fault, my own misinterpretation and it always comes down to being what it is. It's easy to say everything is just fine when your on the other side of it. My Dad was the impartial person throughout our lives & he passed away a yr ago 9-29...my sister said before he passed "It would be best if he goes first" and after he did, she said " she was so relieved that he went first"...I didn't understand that comment and still don't except that she did tell me if Mom dies first I can take care of him. I would have gladly done so and I do know the sacrifices it requires but I loved and respected that man. Never realized how our family dynamics are so messed up until now. I'd like to make it better but I refuse to be dictated to about what I can & can't do, unappreciated unless its what they want " like dog sitting Moms dog while she was in the hospital".....but do not offer any nursing knowledge cause its not wanted. I sat with Mom, spent a few overnights & been there on my days off work...big deal! I bought some really good healing lotion and rubbed her legs & feet. My sisters daughter did the same and guess who my Mom praised for it....yep, something that simple& I'm pretty sure she hasn't lost her memory to that degree. I see only heartache for me if I continue trying and it's undeserving. What am I guilty of....not being like them? I don't need to become bitter and resentful & it seems I on my way down that road....NO THANKS. So I guess I'll choose what could possibly be regret for not trying harder and beating my head against that wall thinking it could change. My biggest fault is determination and persistence but sometimes you really do need to give it up. Then you'll be accused of not being there. I can't win unless I become submissive and that will never happen. The lotion massage was just minor but oh so familiar. Oh, I've always done her hair and she loves that but I guarantee someone will take that away from me as well. Don't want sympathy here at all.... I want what I've always wanted understanding...even if its just a try would be awesome. I'm ADD & they have no clue what that is nor do they care. Again, an attempt to understand what that means in my life would be great. It makes me different, yes but it also makes me very unique. Tired of trying to be loved for who the hell I am which, to me, is not asking much :-) Sorry Claire....big time venting and I see you have some very important issues of your own you're coping with. Hope you are appreciated. God bless and thank you so very much for listening. Congrats on your interview. I'm going to go read it now. I work at a skilled nursing facility and care for 27-30 residents with varied diagnoses. Love them all and my only complaint is that I wish I could spend more one-on-one time cause they are all people with a lifetime of stories, memories and so much I still don't know about them.