Alzheimer’s disease can be defined by 7 stages. While each patient will experience the different stages in different ways and for different lengths of time, each stage can be defined by the behavior exhibited. Alzheimer’s will gradually destroy a person’s ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate, and carry out daily activities.
The Alzheimer’s Association defines the 7 stages as:
- No impairment: This stage may last for several years. During those years there are usually no visible signs of the disease and family members and the family physician will not notice any changes.
- Very mild decline: Slight memory loss begins to occur. A loved one may start to forget names and dates or misplace things such as car keys. This stage can also go unnoticed and the person can hide or compensate for any problems.
- Mild cognitive decline: Memory loss will become more prevalent. The memory loss will affect everyday activities and a loved one may become unable to complete even the simplest of tasks such as balancing a checkbook. Friends and family will begin to notice the memory loss.
- Moderate cognitive decline: Memory loss becomes ever more prevalent. Loved ones may begin to experience other symptoms such as wandering, paranoia, depression and sleeplessness.
- Moderately severe cognitive decline: A loved one may need some assistance with everyday activities such as bathing, dressing and preparing meals. They will likely suffer from major gaps in memory.
- Severe cognitive decline: Significant personality changes may occur. The loves ones will lose most of their awareness of events and surrounding. They generally remember their own name but may forget the name of close family and their spouse. They may also suffer from episodes of incontinence and require assistance with daily activities.
- Very severe cognitive decline: Loved ones at this stage often must reside in a skilled nursing facility. They may lose the ability to walk, then the ability to sit. They are usually bedridden and need complete assistance with aspects of daily living. They are incontinent, not able to feed themselves and cannot express their needs. At this stage, swallowing may also become impaired.
Understanding the stages of Alzheimer’s disease can help the patient’s family and caregivers prepare and plan for the future.