Alzheimer's disease
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Alzheimer's disease

What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting around 850,000 people in the UK. Dementia is a progressive neurological disease which affects a number of different brain functions, including memory.

The exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is unknown, although a number of things are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition.

These include:
Read more about the causes of Alzheimer's disease.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease 
The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease get worse slowly over several years. Sometimes these symptoms are confused with other conditions and may initially be put down to old age.

The rate at which the symptoms progress is different for each individual and it is not possible to predict exactly how quickly it will get worse.

In some cases, infections, medications, strokes or delirium can be responsible for symptoms becoming worse. Anyone with Alzheimer's disease whose symptoms are rapidly getting worse should be seen by a doctor, so these can be managed.

Stages of Alzheimer's disease
Generally, the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are divided into three main stages.

Early symptoms:
In the early stages, the main symptom of Alzheimer's disease is memory lapses. For example, someone with early Alzheimer's disease may:
  • forget about recent conversations or events, or misplace items
  • forget the names of places and objects, or have trouble thinking of the right word
  • repeat themselves regularly, or ask the same question several times
  • show poor judgment or find it harder to make decisions
  • become less flexible and more hesitant to try new things
There are often signs of mood changes, such as increasing anxiety or agitation, or periods of confusion.

Middle-stage symptoms:
As Alzheimer's disease develops, memory problems will get worse. Someone with the condition may find it increasingly difficult to remember the names of people they know and may struggle to recognise their family and friends.

Other symptoms may also develop, such as:
  • increasing confusion and disorientation – for example, getting lost or wandering, and not knowing what time of day it is
  • obsessive, repetitive or impulsive behaviour
  • delusions (believing things that are untrue) or feeling paranoid and suspicious about carers or family members
  • problems with speech or language (aphasia)
  • disturbed sleep
  • changes in mood, such as frequent mood swings, depression and feeling increasingly anxious, frustrated or agitated
  • difficulty performing spatial tasks, such as judging distances
  • hallucinations
By this stage, someone with Alzheimer's disease usually needs support to help them with their everyday living. For example, they may need help eating, washing, getting dressed and using the toilet.

Later symptoms:
In the later stages of Alzheimer's disease, the symptoms become increasingly severe and distressing for the person with the condition, as well as their carers, friends and family.

Hallucinations and delusions may come and go over the course of the illness, but can become worse as the condition progresses. Sometimes people with Alzheimer's disease can be violent, demanding and suspicious of those around them.

A number of other symptoms may also develop as Alzheimer's disease progresses, such as:
In the severe stages of Alzheimer's disease, people may need full-time care and assistance with eating, moving and using the toilet.

How can we help you?
Our later life and memory services are here to help and support older people who are experiencing memory problems like Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. We provide community later life and memory services in Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Warrington and Wigan. We also provide inpatient services for people with memory problems living in these areas.
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