Think your elderly parent or spouse might have memory issues – maybe even the start of Alzheimer’s? Maybe its time to understand a little more about the stages of Alzheimer’s.
Misplacing car keys. Not remembering a familiar name. Occasional forgetfulness. That’s a normal part of aging.
Alzheimer’s disease stretches far beyond the little things. Alzheimer’s symptoms may not appear the same way in every person. Watch and track change from normal behavior in your loved one. If you’re seeing any unusual lapses in cognition, which may include memory, or if your loved one experiences uncharacteristic mood swings, make a special appointment to see the doctor. That may signify something more.
Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5 million people in the U.S. Over time, Alzheimer’s disease gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability to learn and carry out daily activities such as talking, eating, and going to the bathroom. As the disease progresses, individuals may also experience changes in personality and behavior. Unfortunately, there are no cures for Alzheimer’s disease and there is no way to predict how fast someone will progress through the stages of the disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Progressing through Three Stages
In people with Alzheimer’s disease, changes in the brain may begin 10 to 20 years before any visible signs or symptoms appear. Some regions of the brain may begin to shrink, resulting in memory loss, the first visible sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Over time, Alzheimer’s disease progresses through three main stages: mild, moderate, and severe. Because it is not easy to look inside a living brain to see the damage Alzheimer’s disease causes, these stages are characterized by a collection of signs and symptoms and behaviors people with Alzheimer’s disease experience.
Mild Alzheimer’s Disease
People with mild symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease often seem healthy, but they are actually having trouble making sense of the world around them. It often takes time for an observer to realize that something is wrong because the initial symptoms are often confused with changes that take place in normal aging. Symptoms and early signs of Alzheimer’s disease may include:
- Difficulty learning and remembering new information
- Difficulty managing finances, planning meals, taking medication on schedule
- Depression symptoms (sadness, decreased interest in usual activities, loss of energy)
- Still able to do most activities such as driving a car, yet may get lost going to familiar places
Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease
In moderate Alzheimer’s disease, the damaging processes occurring in the brain worsens and spreads to other areas that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and thought. In this stage, symptoms and signs of Alzheimer’s disease become more pronounced and behavioral problems may become more obvious. Signs and symptoms of moderate Alzheimer’s disease may include:
- Forgets old facts
- Continually repeats stories and/or asks the same questions over and over
- Makes up stories to fill gaps
- Difficulty performing tasks
- Has trouble following written notes
- Has trouble doing daily tasks such as using the shower and toilet
- Agitation and/or behavioral symptoms are common, and include restlessness, repetitive movements, wandering, paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations
- Begins losing intellect and reasoning
- Lack of concern for appearance, hygiene, and sleep become more noticeable
Severe to Late Stages of Alzheimer’s
By the time a person is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s they will require round the clock care. They will:
- Be confused about past and present events
- Have a total loss of recognition of familiar places or people
- Have a total severe or total loss of verbal skills
- Problems with swallowing, incontinence and illness
- Unable to care for self, and suffer extreme mood swings and behavioral problems