ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

When most people think of Alzheimer’s disease, they think of memory loss, but this is just one of the symptoms of this condition.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that can affect many areas of cognitive functioning, including:

  • Judgment
  • Decision-making
  • Attention
  • Organizational skills
  • Planning skills
  • Orientation
  • Insight
  • Self-control
  • Multi-tasking ability
  • Verbalization/Object naming
  • Receptive Language

What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome, a set of symptoms that can be caused by any number of different diseases. The syndrome is characterized by gradual loss of mental abilities, including changes in memory, personality, behavior and thought.

Alzheimer’s disease is one condition that causes dementia symptoms, but there are many other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Conditions falling under the umbrella of 'dementia' include: fronto-temporal disease, Lewy Body dementia, Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and dementia from Parkinson's disease.

The cognitive and behavioral symptoms that we see in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are the result of physical and biochemical changes in the brain that are beyond the person’s control.

An Alzheimer’s brain shows atrophy (shrinkage), which impairs the person’s ability to function effectively. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition, meaning that the symptoms get worse over time as more areas of the brain are affected.

To help understand what to expect from people at different points in the illness, it is divided into three stages: Early, moderate and later. We've also put together a short list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) you may find helpful.

Early Stage

Early Stage

Symptoms and information about those diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's disease. Learn more.
Moderate Stage

Moderate Stage

Symptoms and information about those diagnosed with moderate stage Alzheimer's disease. Learn more.
Later Stage

Later Stage

Symptoms and information about those diagnosed with later stage Alzheimer's disease. Learn more.
FAQs

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Alzheimer's disease and how to get answers and support. Learn more.

The symptoms we see in people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are the result of physical and chemical changes in the brain. To understand these symptoms, it can be helpful to look at the brain and see how impairments in specific brain regions can result in the behavioral manifestations we witness in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain Lobes and Their Functions

Frontal Lobe

Executive Functions:

  • Insight
  • Initiative
  • Self-control
  • Judgement
  • Decision making
  • Planning/sequencing
  • Emotional control
  • Memory for motor tasks
  • Multi-tasking ability

Examples of observed problems:

  • Inability to plan a sequence of movements needed to complete multi-stepped tasks (i.e. make coffee, take a shower, etc.)
  • Inability to focus on a task
  • Changes in mood, social behavior and problem solving
  • Sexually inappropriate behavior

Parietal Lobe

Sensory-perceptual functions:

  • Manipulation of objects
  • Goal-directed voluntary movement

Examples of observed problems:

  • Difficulty manipulating body parts and tools to do self-care tasks (i.e. brush teeth, etc.)
  • Difficulty with hand-eye coordination

Occipital Lobe

Vision functions:

  • Locating objects in the environment
  • Identifying colors

Examples of observed problems:

  • Visual field cuts (one side neglect)
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty reading and writing

Temporal Lobe

Language and memory functions:

  • Memory acquisition
  • Object naming
  • Receptive language (comprehension)

Examples of observed problems:

  • Difficulty recognizing faces
  • Difficulty understanding spoken words
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Inability to categorize objects
  • Increase in aggressive behavior

Cerebellum

Motor functions:

  • Coordination of voluntary movements
  • Balance and equilibrium

Examples of observed problems:

  • Loss of ability to coordinate fine movements
  • Loss of ability to walk
  • Inability to make rapid movements

Brain Stem

Autonomic/reflex responses:

  • Breathing
  • Swallowing
  • Alertness
  • Heart rate
  • Startle response
  • Sleep
  • Regulation (BP, digestion, sweating, temperature)

Examples of observed problems:

  • Difficulty swallowing food and water
  • Sleeping difficulties (i.e. insomnia, sleep apnea)