by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Alzheimer disease symptoms are mild when they start. They get worse over time.

Early Phase

Common problems in the early phase are:

  • Forgetfulness—and trying to hide it
  • Losing items or putting them in the wrong place
  • Getting lost while driving or walking in familiar places
  • Problems with focus or lack of interest in activities
  • Problems recalling words or naming things
  • A change from complex to simple sentences
  • Problems doing math
  • Problems doing fine motor tasks, such as putting a key in the keyhole or buttoning a shirt
  • Problems doing daily tasks, such as finances, home chores, and hygiene
  • Repeating questions and stories
  • Wordy speech that does not make sense
  • Signs of depression

Middle Phase

Long-term memory may be good on this phase. Short-term memory begins to fail. Other changes may be:

  • Problems sleeping
  • Becoming less social and less aware of the feelings of others
  • Needing help to make decisions
  • Needing help bathing, grooming, dressing
  • Forgetting one’s own history of personal events
  • Personality changes, such as sudden mood shifts, anger, worry, or fearfulness

Advanced Phase

Abilities decline quickly in this phase. Changes may be:

  • Problems using language
  • Getting easily disoriented
  • Problems with urine control
  • Walking with a shuffle or falling often
  • Showing little emotion
  • Pain and problems moving
  • Weight loss and problems swallowing
  • Mental health problems, such as mood changes and seeing things that are not there


Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed April 6, 2022.

Alzheimer's disease medications fact sheet. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: Accessed April 6, 2022.

Atri, A. The Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Spectrum: Diagnosis and Management. Med Clin North Am. 2019; 103(2): 263-293.

Mendez, M.F. What is the relationship of traumatic brain injury to dementia? J Alzheimer’s Dis. 2017; 57(3): 667-81.

What is Alzheimer's? Alzheimer’s Association website. Available at: Accessed April 6, 2022.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2022
  • Update Date: 04/07/2022