Alzheimer’s often develops slowly over several years, so symptoms are not always obvious at first.

Symptoms also vary between individuals, as they depend on which part of the brain is affected by the disease.

In the early stages, it can be difficult to tell the difference between memory problems caused by Alzheimer’s, and mild forgetfulness that happens as we get older.

An early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is often memory loss. This may include losing memories of recent events, asking the same questions repeatedly, or having difficulty following conversation and learning new information.

If problems start to get in the way of everyday life or are getting worse, it is important to see a GP as soon as possible.

Layla Andrews

My mum Karen was a school bursar and was always really good with numbers. She started struggling with simple sums and became quite forgetful. She also got confused when she couldn't do things which she knew she should be able to.

- Layla, whose mum has Alzheimer's disease

Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s may include:

  • Memory loss. Regularly forgetting recent events, names, faces and recently learned information.
  • Repetition. Becoming increasingly repetitive, e.g. repeating the same question or repeating behaviours and routines.
  • Misplacing things. Regularly misplacing items or putting them in odd places.
  • Confusion. Not being sure of the date or time of day.
  • Disorientation. People may be unsure of their whereabouts or get lost, particularly in unfamiliar places.
  • Language. Problems finding the right words, understanding the meaning of words or following conversations.
  • Mood and behaviour. Some people become low in mood, anxious or agitated. Others may lose self-confidence, show less interest in what’s happening around them and in doing activities they would usually enjoy.

 

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means symptoms will get worse over time. The speed of change varies between people.

People with Alzheimer’s will need more support doing everyday tasks and an increasing amount of care as time goes on.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, symptoms may impact:

 

  • Memory and thinking. People will find that their ability to remember, think and make decisions disrupts daily life. People may have difficulty recognising household objects or familiar faces.
  • Communication. Speaking with and understanding people becomes more difficult. People may also develop problems with reading, writing and numbers.
  • Day-to-day tasks. Familiar tasks such as using a phone or using the kettle become harder.
  • Sleeping. Some people develop changes to their normal sleep patterns, such as waking frequently during the night or sleeping more during the day.
  • Behaviour. Some people become restless, aggressive or anxious. Some may also experience paranoia and be fearful or suspicious of others.
  • Movement. People may have problems walking, be unsteady on their feet and find swallowing food more difficult.
  • Senses. People may experience hallucinations, where they see or hear things that aren’t there.
  • Care. People gradually require more help with daily activities like dressing, eating and using the toilet.

 

Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease?

If you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the last two years and would like help shape our work please get in touch via stories@alzheimersresearchuk.org

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 2024 and is due to be reviewed in May 2026. 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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