There are 7 stages of
Knowledge is power. You can begin to manage Alzheimer’s and the effect it will have by learning about the 7 stages of Alzheimer’s, the timeline of this terrible disease and what to expect.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s is often used as a general term for persons who are experiencing a decline in their cognitive abilities.
Over time, those afflicted by this terrible disease will experience a gradual deterioration in their ability to:
- Remember events, both past and recent occurrences
- Think clearly
- Make sound judgments
- Solve even simple problems
- Express themselves
- Find the proper words
- Understand basic requests, commands, or questions
- Understand what everyday objects or events are
- Lose their concept of time
Very early stages of Alzheimer’s often go undetected as subjects feel embarrassed, knowing that they should remember certain things, but can’t. Subjects will try to cover up the fact that they no longer remember certain events or what a common item is through a variety of excuses or lies.
Unfortunately, as of this writing, there is no cure for any 7 stages of Alzheimer’s, however, there are pharmaceutical drugs that can help slow the progression, and clinical trials are currently underway to test a promising coenzyme called NAD+. You can read more about this exciting compound here.
7 stages of Alzheimer’s
By knowing and understanding each stage of this disease, you can better prepare yourself for the needs of the patient with this condition.
While there is no universal system in place for determining the exact stages, most doctors will use similar language when determining which stage, a patient has entered.
Having a family member who has/had Alzheimer’s means that you have a greater risk of developing this disease. Your doctor might also be able to identify biomarkers that indicate a higher risk.
In this stage, your doctor might want to take base tests to determine if or when the patient has moved into another stage. Some of the questions asked might seem silly (What is your name? What is your birthday?) but those who become afflicted with Alzheimer’s won’t be able to answer these types of simple questions.
Stage Two-Very Mild Impairment
Since Alzheimer’s tends to affect those over the age of 65, episodes of forgetfulness are often considered to be a sign of “old age”, when they could be the early signs of Alzheimer’s.
While it is normal to have some memory lapses at these ages, those with Alzheimer’s will have a faster rate of decline than others their same age.
Stage Three-Mild Impairment
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s at this stage begin to make themselves apparent, but usually, only those who are close to the person or those who know them very well, such as family members.
Common examples of impairment at this stage include:
- Getting lost or becoming disoriented on roads or routes traveled for years
- Difficulty remembering the right names for objects or the names of people known for years
- Unable to remember something they just read
- Unable to remember new names or people
- Misplacing or losing valuable objects, money, or other important items
- An inability to concentrate, even for a few minutes
Persons at this stage often deny that they are having difficulties. They will blame outside circumstances (It’s too noisy for me to think here!) or they might feel anxiety over their inability to remember things. This stage can last between 2 and 7 years
Stage Four-Mild Alzheimer’s
This is the stage where Alzheimer’s is most commonly diagnosed. Subjects will have mood changes, including withdrawal or very strong denials while having difficulty with everyday tasks.
New signs of Alzheimer’s include:
- A decrease in the awareness of recent or current events
- Losing memory of personal experiences or history
- Difficulty with bills, finances, and understanding money
- Difficulty following a telephone conversation
Subjects might still remember big events, such as their wedding anniversary, but smaller events, such as the name of their elementary school, might be lost to them. This stage typically lasts about 2 years.
Stage Five-Moderate Dementia
This stage will last about 1-2 years, and this is when patients will need a great deal more support. While subjects might still remember their names and close family members, they often forget their address, phone number, time of year, weather conditions, and tasks such as choosing appropriate clothing for the weather or cooking becomes very difficult.
Stage Six-Moderately Severe Alzheimer’s
This stage is broken down into several sub-stages. Over the course of 2-3 years, the following tasks and issues become more and more difficult.
6A. Clothing. Subjects will not only be unable to decide on appropriate clothing for the current weather conditions, but they often need help knowing how to put them on. They might mistake pants for shirts or underwear for hats.
6B. Personal Hygiene. While subjects might begin this stage simply forgetting to flush the toilet, they later forget how to wipe and might even lose control of their bladder and require adult diapers.
6C. Other Hygiene Matters. Persons with Alzheimer’s at this stage will need to be reminded to do daily hygiene routines, such as brushing their teeth or using deodorant. They will need to have someone adjust the water temperature before baths or showers.
Memory issues become very apparent at this stage. Patients might mistake family members for other people, forget who family members are entirely, and not remember that older family members, such as their parents, have passed away.
Personality changes also occur including feelings of suspicion, paranoia, frustration, anger, and shame. Patients might also begin having sleep disorders, wanting to sleep most of the afternoon and then wandering the house at night.
Stage 7-Severe Alzheimer’s
The final stages of Alzheimer’s make caring for patients a full-time occupation. This stage is also broken down into substages, with each stage lasting between 1-2 years.
7A. Speech. Patients often speak no more than 6 words or less.
7B. Further Speech Decline. Speaking is now limited to single word answers.
7C. No Speech.
7D. Movement. Patients are often no longer to sit up independently.
7E. Facial Expressions. Smiling often stops and only a grimace or no expression is given.
7F. Lack of Strength. Patients become too weak to hold up their heads or lift their hands.
Some persons become completely immobile and must be fed, clothed, and bathed by caregivers. The most frequent cause of death for persons at this advanced stage is pneumonia.
Caring for someone at someone at any 7 stages of Alzheimer’s is a tremendous task and caregivers need support, help, and time away from these duties. There are support groups available. Ask your doctor for one in your area to help teach you coping strategies.