At what stage of Alzheimer’s people begin picking their skin?

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia can be a challenging journey, marked by various stages that unfold unpredictably. One behavior that may puzzle caregivers is skin picking, a habit that tends to emerge during the middle stages of these conditions. In this blog post, I will discuss the stages of Alzheimer’s, shed light on why skin picking occurs, and provide practical insights for those who find themselves navigating this aspect of caregiving.

How Many Stages in Alzheimer’s Are There?

old man sad with dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease progresses through several stages, each presenting unique challenges for both the individual and their caregivers. While the symptoms can vary from person to person, generally, Alzheimer’s is divided into three main stages: early, middle, and late.

1. Early Stage: Recognition and Memory Challenges

During the early stage, individuals may experience mild memory loss, forgetting names or recent events. At this point, the person can still function independently, and the changes may go unnoticed by those around them.

2. Middle Stage: Unraveling and Behavioral Changes

The middle stage is where the challenge of skin picking often arises. Memory loss intensifies, and individuals may struggle with everyday tasks. They might become more self-centered as their world starts to contract. It’s in this stage that habits like skin picking may surface, adding a new layer of complexity to caregiving.

3. Late Stage: Severe Decline and Dependence

In the late stage, individuals with Alzheimer’s require extensive assistance with daily activities. Communication becomes severely limited, and the person may lose awareness of their surroundings. While skin picking might persist in some cases, it is often overshadowed by more critical concerns related to overall health and well-being.

Skin Picking in Alzheimer’s

person holding jaw

Contrary to common belief, skin picking is not a direct symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. Instead, it is a behavior that tends to manifest during the middle stages of these conditions. Let’s delve into why skin picking becomes prevalent during this period.

Not a Symptom, but a Habit: The Middle Stage Challenge

Skin picking is not listed as a symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia in medical literature. However, it is a habit that many individuals develop during the middle stages of these conditions. As the person’s cognitive abilities decline, they may engage in repetitive behaviors, and skin picking is one such manifestation.

Contraction of the World: Self-Centered Behavior

During the middle stages of Alzheimer’s, individuals often become more self-centered as their cognitive functions decline. The world around them may seem confusing and overwhelming, leading to a tendency to focus on themselves. Skin picking can be a way for them to cope with this sense of confusion and anxiety.

At What Stage Does Skin Picking Typically Begin?

Understanding when skin picking commonly starts is crucial for caregivers to provide effective support. While each person’s experience with Alzheimer’s is unique, skin picking tends to emerge during the middle stage of the disease.

Middle Stage: The Turning Point for Skin Picking

Skin picking often becomes noticeable during the middle stage of Alzheimer’s, typically when cognitive decline is more pronounced. At this point, the individual may struggle with memory, daily tasks, and communication, leading to increased frustration and anxiety. Skin picking can serve as a repetitive behavior that provides a sense of comfort or distraction.

Practical Tips for Caregivers

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s involves adapting to the changing needs and behaviors that arise throughout the different stages. When skin picking becomes a noticeable habit, caregivers can take specific steps to manage and address this behavior.

1. Observation: Noticing the Signs

Caregivers should be attentive to changes in behavior, especially during the middle stage of Alzheimer’s. If skin picking becomes apparent, observe when it happens, and whether there are specific triggers or patterns.

2. Gentle Redirection: Offering Alternatives

Instead of attempting to directly stop the skin picking, caregivers can try gentle redirection. Offering alternative activities or distractions, such as fidget toys or sensory objects, can help shift the focus away from skin picking without causing distress.

3. Maintaining Comfort: Addressing Underlying Causes

Skin picking may be a response to discomfort, such as dry skin or irritation. Ensuring the individual is comfortable by using moisturizers or addressing any underlying skin issues can reduce the urge to pick.

4. Communication: A Key Element in Care

Emotional Woman

Engaging in open and understanding communication with the individual is vital. While they may not always express their needs verbally, observing non-verbal cues and responding with empathy can contribute to a supportive caregiving environment.


As we’ve explored, skin picking is not a symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia but rather a habit that often emerges during the middle stages of these conditions. Caregivers play a crucial role in providing support and understanding as their loved ones navigate the challenges of cognitive decline.

By recognizing the stages of Alzheimer’s, understanding the reasons behind skin picking, and implementing practical tips for caregiving, individuals and their families can approach this aspect of the journey with compassion and adaptability.

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