What are the complications of Alzheimer’s disease?
Complications of Alzheimer’s disease usually are a result of the changes that take place in the brain as the disease progresses. These changes can cause additional health problems, including:
- Depression: Depression is common in people who have Alzheimer’s disease. Many people become depressed when they recognize that their memories and abilities to function are getting worse. It can be hard to tell whether a person who has Alzheimer’s is depressed. Many of the symptoms of depression are very similar to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, including withdrawal from daily activities, changes in mood, and sleeping problems.
- Unreported pain, illness, or medicine side effects: Alzheimer’s disease may make it hard for a person to communicate. As such, a person who has Alzheimer’s may not be able to tell caregivers if they’re in pain, are sick, or are experiencing side effects from a medicine.
- Falling: Alzheimer’s disease can cause changes in balance and coordination. This may cause an increased risk of broken bones, head trauma, or other injuries from falls.
- Pneumonia or other infections: Alzheimer’s disease may cause a loss of control of certain body functions, such as swallowing or bladder control. Problems swallowing may cause the person to accidentally inhale food or drink. This can lead to pneumonia. If the person has problems with bladder control, he or she may need to have a urinary catheter. A catheter is a tube placed in the bladder to drain and collect urine. Having a catheter increases the risk of urinary tract and other serious infections.
- Malnutrition or dehydration: People who have Alzheimer’s disease may not get enough food or water because they refuse food when they are confused or upset; they don’t recognize or are unable to communicate that they are hungry or thirsty; or because it is difficult for them to swallow. It’s important to watch for signs of malnutrition.
If you think that a loved one might be experiencing any of the complications listed above, talk to your loved one’s doctor. He or she can provide medicine or other treatments to help keep your loved one comfortable.
See a list of resources used in the development of this information.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff