Alzheimer's Disease | Symptoms


Why is Alzheimer’s disease called a “progressive” disease?

“Progressive” means that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease usually start slowly and are mild, then get worse over time. The process of symptoms getting worse over time is called “cognitive decline.” In the late stages of the disease, a person who has Alzheimer’s is no longer able to communicate and depends entirely on other people for care.

How long does a person usually live with Alzheimer’s disease?

It’s different for each person. Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans older than 65 years of age and the sixth leading cause of death for all people in the United States. Most people live 4 to 8 years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Some live with the disease for up to 20 years.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

The Alzheimer’s Association has identified 10 warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (see the list below). It’s important to remember that every person is different and may not have all or even most of these warning signs. Talk to your family doctor if you notice 1 or more of these signs in yourself or a loved one.

10 Alzheimer’s Disease Warning Signs

  1. Memory loss that affects daily life: Examples include forgetting important dates or things you just learned; asking the same question over and over; or relying heavily on reminder notes, technology, or other family members to remember things.
  2. Changes in the ability to follow a plan or solve a problem: This may include having trouble concentrating on a problem, such as a math problem; following a plan, such as a recipe; or keeping track of regularly scheduled tasks, such as paying monthly bills.
  3. Changes in the ability to complete familiar tasks: Alzheimer’s disease can make it hard to do the things that you used to do all the time. For example, it might be hard to do chores at home, run errands, or finish a routine task at work.
  4. Becoming confused about time or place: Examples include losing track of how much time has passed or the date or the day of the week and forgetting where you are and how you got there.
  5. Problems with vision or understanding visual information: Examples include trouble reading, identifying colors or judging distances, or getting confused about what you see.
  6. Problems with words: Examples include forgetting words in the middle of a conversation, repeating parts of a conversation, or problems with vocabulary, such as calling things by the wrong names.
  7. Misplacing things: Examples include putting things in unusual places, losing things often, being unable to retrace steps in order to find a lost object, and even accusing others of stealing.
  8. Poor judgment: Examples include paying less attention to appearance or cleanliness and using poor judgment with money, such as giving large amounts of money to solicitors.
  9. Withdrawal from activities: Examples include withdrawing from social activities, work projects, or family gatherings, or abandoning a hobby, sport, or favorite activity.
  10. Changes in mood and personality: Examples include becoming unusually confused, suspicious, upset, depressed, fearful, or anxious, especially when in new or unfamiliar places.


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 08/12
Created: 04/12