Alzheimer’s disease often develops slowly over several years, so symptoms are not always obvious at first. It is a progressive disease, this means symptoms will get worse over time. People with Alzheimer’s will need more support doing everyday tasks and an increasing amount of care as time goes on.

A loss of interest and enjoyment in day-to-day activities can often be one of the first noticable symptoms, but this can be subtle and may be mistaken for other conditions such as depression. In the early stages of the disease, it can also be difficult to distinguish memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s from mild forgetfulness that can be seen in normal ageing.

Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s may include:

  • Memory. Regularly forgetting recent events, names, and faces.
  • Repetition. Becoming increasingly repetitive, e.g. repeating the same question over and over or repeating behaviours and routines.
  • Misplacing things. Regularly misplacing items or putting them in odd places.
  • Confusion. Not sure of the date or time of day.
  • Disorientation. People may be unsure of their whereabouts or get lost, particularly in unfamiliar places.
  • Language and speaking. Problems finding the right words.
  • Mood and behaviour. Some people become low in mood, anxious or irritable. Others may lose self-confidence, show less interest in what’s happening around them or just start to do a lot less.

As the disease gets worse

Alzheimer’s progresses over time, but the speed of change varies between people. As Alzheimer’s progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Memory and thinking skills. People will find that their ability to remember, think and make decisions gets worse.
  • Communication. Speaking and understanding people becomes more difficult.
  • Recognition. People may have difficulty recognising household objects or familiar faces.
  • Day-to-day tasks. Such as using a TV remote control, phone or using the kettle become harder.
  • Sleeping. Changes to sleep patterns often occur, such as waking frequently during the night.
  • Behaviour. Some people become sad, depressed, or frustrated about the challenges they face. Anxiety is also common, and people may become fearful or suspicious.
  • Physical changes. People may have problems walking, be unsteady on their feet, find swallowing food more difficult or have seizures.
  • Hallucinations and delusions. People may experience hallucinations, where they see or hear things that aren’t there. Others may believe things to be true that haven’t actually happened, known as ‘delusions’.
  • Care. People gradually require more help with daily activities like dressing, eating, and using the toilet.
  • Sundowning. People with Alzheimer’s can experience increased confusion and anxiety during the evening and at night. This is called sundowning.

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Find out more about the symptoms and causes of Alzheimer's disease, and the treatments currently available.

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This information was updated in May 2022 and is due to be reviewed in May 2024, it was written by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Information Services team with input from lay and expert reviewers. Please get in touch if you’d like a version with references or in a different format.

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