If you have a parent, grandparent or other aging family member suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, just knowing what you may expect as the disease progresses can offer some comfort.
Not all sufferers of Alzheimer’s will experience the same symptoms, and the speed of their decline may vary as well. But no matter what your experience with the disease may be, it can no doubt be a painful one.
It’s difficult to place an individual with Alzheimer’s disease into a specific stage since the phases they go through may actually overlap a bit. However, the Alzheimer’s Association has identified seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease based on research from Barry Reisburg, M.D., the clinical director of the New York University School of Medicine’s Siberstein Aging and Dementia Research Center.
The Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
Stage 1 – Normal/No Impairment: This person has not experienced any memory-related issues and overall is mentally healthy. They have no problems with judgment, communication skills or daily activities.
Stage 2 – Normal Forgetfulness/Very Mild Decline: Half of all people over age 65 begin noticing some cognitive difficulties, but this is considered a normal part of aging. Occasional lapses of memory occur but aren’t noticed by family or friends.
Stage 3 – Mild Cognitive Impairment/Early Confusion: Your loved one may experience mild changes in memory, behavior, and/or communication skills. They may have trouble recalling names or words, have difficulty with planning and organization, performing daily tasks, misplacing objects and forgetting things they just learned.
Stage 4 – Mild Alzheimer’s/Moderate Decline: Cognitive impairment symptoms are more obvious at this stage and an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be given. Your loved one will exhibit confusion completing tasks like cooking, driving or shopping. They may forget recent events or conversations and have trouble handling their finances. They may also withdraw socially and experience mood swings or depression.
Stage 5 – Moderate Alzheimer’s/Early Dementia: Your loved one will require assistance with day to day activities at this stage and will not be able to live alone anymore. They will experience severe memory loss, disorientation over what day or season it is and decreased personal hygiene skills. However, it is common in this stage for the sufferer to still recognize significant family members and may not need assistance with using the restroom or eating yet.
Stage 6 – Moderately Severe Alzheimer’s/Middle Dementia: At this stage your loved one loses the ability to recognize family and has noticeable personality changes, like paranoia, suspiciousness or extreme anxiety. They’ll need help with many basic tasks, from dressing to eating. They may begin to wander and withdraw from their surroundings, or show signs of agitation and hallucinations in the late afternoon or evening hours.
Stage 7 – Severe Alzheimer’s and Dementia: In this final stage, the sufferer will no longer be able to respond as communication has become very limited. Help will be needed around the clock for all daily personal care. Your loved one may no longer be able to walk or even sit up as their physical systems have deteriorated.
No two Alzheimer’s patients are the same, and each person will progress differently. American Senior Communities supports goals of the Alzheimer’s Association and offers memory care services at most of its 65 communities located throughout Indiana when you can no longer care for your loved one at home.