Dementia is a general term used to describe the loss of memory, thinking-abilities, problem solving, and language that is severe enough to impact a person’s daily life. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

An older woman enjoying her morning coffee.

Though the precise cause is not known, most experts agree that Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is caused by damage to the brain cells. There are multiple factors that could increase a person’s risk of developing dementia, such as advanced age, family history, cardiovascular disease, or a history of head trauma.

Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Contrary to popular belief, memory loss is not a natural part of aging. Occasionally forgetting a name or misplacing the car keys is normal. But significant memory problems that disrupt daily life, such as getting lost on the way home from a familiar grocery store or developing an inability to keep track of bills, may be early symptoms of dementia.

According to Dr. Jane Potter from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, some early signs of dementia may include apathy, depression and difficulty remembering names and recent events.

The Alzheimer’s Association has identified the following 10 signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
  • Confusion with time or place.
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  • Decreased or poor judgment.
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  • Changes in mood and personality.
  • Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have about these signs with a physician

Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

While dementia affects each individual differently, everyone tends to follow a general pattern of decline defined by stages. Understanding the different stages can help you know what to expect as the disease progresses. It can also help you plan accordingly for the additional care that your loved one will likely need along the way.

Dementia experts typically group Alzheimer’s disease into three main stages:

  • Early stage
  • Middle stage
  • Late stage

Lewy Body Dementia

This type of dementia occurs when deposits of a protein called “Lewy Bodies” build up in the brain and disrupt the brain’s normal functioning. The protein deposits were named after the scientist who first discovered their connection to dementia.

Someone with Lewy Body dementia may exhibit symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease, including memory problems, poor judgment and confusion. Additionally, Lewy Body dementia symptoms may include excessive daytime drowsiness, hallucinations, tremors and a lack of facial expression.

Compare this form of dementia to other common forms.

Signs & Symptoms of Alzheimer's & Other Dementias: Understanding Alzheimer's

Laurie Owen from Home Instead and Dr. William Burke from the University of Nebraska Medical Center talk about the science and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.