May 4, 2009 -- Question: What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?
Answer: The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease begin with memory trouble. Patients have an impairment -– trouble remembering things that happen in the short term. So they can't remember what they ate for breakfast. They will eventually also have trouble with word finding, so they may mistake their mother with their sister, and get those words confused.
They have what we refer to as a loss of executive functioning, so they are unable to plan out their day, write out checks, organize things on a greater level. And over time, they will begin to forget when to use the bathroom. They will forget to get dressed. They may choose not to get dressed. They will not feel like eating and eventually refuse food altogether. And over time, when they're in their most advanced stages, they will often not be able to walk, become bedbound, not eat, not talk.
Now all these patients don't progress in the exact same way, and so it's very hard to have a cookie cutter answer on how your loved one might do. Some patients will get angrier and have outbursts. So people may think they are becoming quote, unquote "crazy." And really this is a disruption in how their brains are working, and they're not able to process things.
They lose what's called your frontal lobe – ability to be able to hold back on emotions. So kids will speak out an answer without necessarily being able to think about the consequences. Alzheimer's patients may do the same thing when they're more advanced.
Some patients, on the other hand, will become quieter and quieter, and become more bedbound.