The first stages of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are identical to other forms of dementia. Usually first appearing as forgetfulness, people may experience difficulty with perception, cognitive skills and language, and undergo emotional or personality changes.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) seems to bridge the gap between normal forgetfulness associated with aging and the onset of AD. MCI does not interfere with daily activities although it causes minor problems with memory and thought. People may experience difficulty in solving problems, forgetting recent conversations and activities and taking more time to perform complex tasks.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, tasks that used to come easily require more thought, getting lost in familiar areas, misplacing objects, losing interest in things they used to enjoy. In later stages of AD, symptoms become worse and people become less able to care for themselves. Sleep patterns change, they may suffer from delusions and hallucinations, become depressed and agitated, and often withdraw from social contact.
In the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a person no longer recognizes family members and others close to them, cannot understand when someone speaks to them, may become incontinent, and will be unable eat, dress, bathe or manage basic activities of daily living by themselves. Patients with AD often die earlier than normal; however, death is usually caused by organ failure or infections.