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Warning Signs You're Getting Alzheimer's, Say Doctors

These symptoms could signal the serious neurological disorder.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

You may have noticed yourself or a loved one becoming more forgetful or seeming unfocused—is it stress, natural aging, or could it be the beginning of something more serious, like Alzheimer's? The prospect of developing Alzheimer's disease is a scary one; some may feel that once it starts, nothing can be done. Both can discourage people from noticing symptoms in themselves and others. Actually, it's important to be aware of Alzheimer's warning signs so treatment can be started early to slow the progress of the disease. Here are the seven stages of Alzheimer's progression, according to Dr. David Wolk, co-director of the Memory Center at Penn Medicine. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.

1

Before Symptoms

Doctor doing an eye exam on his patient.
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Called the pre-clinical stage, this phase begins 10 to 15 years before the disease is diagnosed. Doctors hope that in the future, they'll be able to do more to arrest or prevent the development of Alzheimer's at this point. For now, it's important that your primary care doctor test regularly for signs of the disease. Remember that the risk for Alzheimer's increases with age. 

2

Simple Forgetfulness

senior African American man sitting on white sofa in light room in beach house
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This can include memory lapses like forgetting people's names or where you left your keys. In this stage, it's possible to do everyday activities like driving, working and socializing; however, memory lapses eventually become more frequent. Getting in treatment early can slow the progression of the disease.

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3

Memory Difficulties

Tired mature woman take off glasses suffering from headache
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In this stage, memory issues go beyond forgetfulness. They can include

  • Difficulty remembering recently read material, such as books or magazines
  • Difficulty remembering plans and staying organized
  • Increased trouble retrieving names or words
  • Challenges in social or work settings

4

Problems With Cognition

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"In this stage, damage to the brain often involves other aspects of cognition outside of memory, including some difficulties with language, organization, and calculations.  These problems can make it more challenging for your loved one to perform daily tasks," says Dr. Wolk.

These problems can include confusion about location or what day it is; risk of wandering off or getting lost; changes in sleep patterns; and difficulty choosing appropriate clothing for the weather or situation.

5

Less Independence

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress
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"In this stage, your loved one will likely have trouble remembering people that are important to them, such as close family and friends," says Penn Medicine. "They may struggle with learning new things, and basic tasks like getting dressed might be too much for them."

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6

Severe Symptoms

older man with dementia sitting next to wife
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"Living on your own requires you to be able to respond to your environment, like knowing what to do if the fire alarm goes off or the phone rings," said Dr. Wolk. "During stage 6, this becomes difficult for people with Alzheimer's." In this stage—which can include difficulty communicating and personality changes—someone with Alzheimer's becomes increasingly dependent on others.

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7

Lack of Bodily Control

Female carer physiotherapist help happy old woman patient stand with walker.
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Alzheimer's destroys brain cells and ultimately causes the body to shut down. A person in this stage needs help with basic functions like walking, eating and eventually swallowing. As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.