If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, you are probably wondering about the stages of the disease and how it progresses. There are seven Alzheimer’s disease stages, and they encompass mild, moderate and severe symptoms.
One thing to keep in mind is that there is no set time for how long someone will be in a certain stage. It all varies. People have lived for as long as 20 years with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but four to eight years are more typical.
1. Normal Function: In stage one, there are no symptoms. That is, no symptoms anyone would notice. You would never know your loved one had Alzheimer’s except if, for some reason, he or she needed a positron emission tomography (PET scan). Only then might the changes in the brain be detectable.
2. Apparent Age-Typical Forgetfulness: As many people age, names and words become harder to recall. Mild impairment characterizes this stage, and while the changes are perceptible, they are so relatively mild that it’s easy to just wave them away. This is particularly true because your loved one is most likely still able to pass memory tests.
3. Increasing Impairment but Still Mild: Your loved one’s impairment in this stage is not just about forgetfulness. It manifests itself through symptoms such as scattered organization and trouble following-through on tasks at work. He or she also has difficulty using correct words and remembering an item that was read minutes before.
4. Specific Alzheimer’s Symptoms: Of the Alzheimer’s disease stages, this moderate stage is often when the disease’s progression becomes really obvious. Even cooking and paying bills may present problems and frustration to the point that your loved one just decides not to do them anymore.
5. Increasingly Severe Symptoms: Your loved one often forgets the time and where he or she is. Moodiness and becoming lost are even more common. Activities such as cooking and paying bills, if slightly possible in stage four, are impossible to do accurately now.
6. Serious Delusions: In this stage, loved ones need a lot of help and supervision so they don’t wander and become lost. Also, serious delusions occur. Your loved one may think you are a parent or spouse, for example. Likewise, he or she may insist it’s time to leave on vacation or to go to work even though he or she has not done either in years.
7. Much Loss of Control: At this stage, loved ones may not be able to respond to what is going on around them; they be unable to speak. Walking and eating become all but impossible.
The moderate Alzheimer’s disease stages tend to be the longest. You can ease the transition with proactive planning; for example, laying out clothes so that your loved one doesn’t get stressed when trying to choose what to wear. If your loved one is still at home in this stage, it’s also advisable to consider long-term care options.