The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can start subtly and then become very obvious. As a progressive disease the initial symptoms can be sneaky and not noticeable. Researchers and physicians developed seven stages of the disease to further explain how you or your loved one can change over time once diagnosed. The stages might also be combined into just three phases of early, middle and late, or mild, moderate, severe. Though there is no cure, there are ways to decrease, or slow down the disease by 3 to 6 months. Each stage builds upon the next and can overlap. Some people develop symptoms early before a real diagnosis, and each person is unique and progress through stages at different rates. As always, there are good days and bad days. Below are the stages in which Alzheimer’s develops.
The initial sneaky stage, Stage one, also known as No Impairment, is very subtle. There are no problems with memory, orientation judgment, communication, and your loved one can function alone. Changes in the brain are beginning to occur but his or her personality has not changed or is noticeable.
Stage two is known as very mild, or minimal impairment. It is also frequently undetected by friends, family or even physicians. Forgetfulness usually is blamed on aging, or stress. Forgetting where something is put, what he or she was going to say, lapses in memory or other cognitive problems occur.
Noticeable Cognitive Decline is the third stage. Family members and friends recognize mild changes in memory, communication or behavior. Common symptoms include problems producing people’s names or proper words for objects, difficulty functioning in employment or social settings, forgetting material or conversations that just occurred, misplacing things more often, a decrease in organizational skills. At this point, physicians might diagnose your loved one with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Often symptoms are contributed to depression.
Once diagnosed, stage four is known as early-stage, or mild Alzheimer’s. It is apparent there is cognitive decline and your loved one may become less functional and not able to finish tasks like managing finances, moodiness and social withdrawal, unable to cook meals or forgetting meals, inability to properly dress themselves, and repetition of the same statements. At this stage, the fourth stage, it is recommended, and necessary to seek assistance to manage or supervise daily activities and in-home health care may be a good option for your loved one.
Moderate, middle-stage, or severe decline is considered the fifth stage. Your loved one may encounter severe gaps in memory and judgment. Safety becomes a major issue and assistance to manage day-to-day activities is needed and personal hygiene worsens, though they may eat and use the bathroom without assistance. Familiar surroundings become foreign and conversations become more and more repetitious. It is importance for assistance because your loved one is unable to recall one’s own contact information or key details about themselves.
Stage six is the end of the middle-stage, and moderate to late-stage Alzheimer’s. This stage is often the most difficult not for the diagnosed, but for the caregivers, as this stage is characterized by personality and behavior changes, in additional to declining memory. The most common symptoms are recognizing loved ones or spouses and close family members, “sundowning”, which is increased restlessness and agitation in the late afternoon and evening, difficulty using the bathroom independently, and wandering. This stage requires assistance with bathing, dressing and using the bathroom. Speech may become nonsensical and anxiety worsens to paranoia and suspicion is extremely high.
Late Stage, and the last stage, Stage seven is the final and most severe stage. It is no longer possible for your loved one to respond to the surrounding environment. Your loved one may not communicate at all, or if so it is very minimal. Motor coordination and body functions begin to shut down. Total care is required around the clock.
These stages may overlap and each case is different, but these stages help understand more about the progression of this disease so you may prepare for the challenges ahead. If you notice any of these symptoms please see a health care provider at once.