Alzheimer’s disease is a type of progressively intensifying disease that continuously develops at a slow pace. It usually lasts many years and worsens over time. Memory power, thinking capacity, speaking capability, solving daily challenges, and the character and movements of a patient are drastically affected in this condition. The disease affects every person at a different pace and intensity. Some symptoms may vary according to the willpower of a patient. But the various Alzheimer’s disease stages remain the same for every patient. What occurs at every step is followed in a similar pattern, if not the same intensity and timing. The patients suffer similar outcomes from early signs of Alzheimer’s to late-onset Alzheimer’s stages.
7 Alzheimer’s Disease Stages
The Alzheimer’s stages can be broken down into seven phases during the course of the condition. The periods between the stages may vary in each patient, but the challenges are similar. The first three phases are when the early signs are displayed or are the pre-dementia phases. These phases are also called the Pre-clinical Alzheimer’s phases. The subsequent four phases, four to seven, are the typical stages of Alzheimer’s.
|One||No loss of memory|
|Three||Mild decline in memory|
Typical Alzheimer’s phases
|Five||Fairly severe cognitive decline|
|Six||Severe dementia or cognitive drop|
Stage 1: No loss of memory
The disease has no signs of dementia or memory impairment, and the patient has regular mood changes with undetectable memory fluctuations. This stage is called the ‘No Cognitive decline’ phase or the ‘Pre-clinical Alzheimer’s’ phase. This may begin as early as ten to fifteen years before the actual symptoms of memory loss are seen. Since this stage is not detected, there is no treatment for this phase.
Stage 2: Vague forgetfulness
This stage is when the early signs of Alzheimer’s are noticed like misplacing objects or forgetting the names of distantly related people in some instances. Such symptoms often go unnoticed since ordinary people also tend to forget sometimes. Other advanced functions like shopping, driving, or meeting people are carried out more effortlessly. This phase may be confused with age-connected forgetfulness and thus is ignored by the ones living with the patient. This phase is called ‘Subjective cognitive decline and may last about 15 years before progressing to the next stage.
Stage 3: A Mild decline in memory
This phase is also called ‘Mild Cognitive Impairment’. Even though the memory is affected subtly, there are many forms in which it is displayed. Some common ways the memory is affected are listed as follows.
- Difficulty in remembering a name persistently.
- Forgetting something that is just read.
- Organising behaviour is affected slowly.
- Facing social connections in a declining manner.
Learning new tasks is a challenge to these patients as they repeatedly ask the same queries. Those who handle big jobs may find it challenging to carry out simple tasks like remembering the day of the week. This is the early-onset Alzheimer’s phase and is usually detected by doctors or those close to the patient. Treatment at this phase makes handling the patient much easier as the next step can be prolonged. This stage takes place about seven years before the dementia stage.
Stage 4: Mild Dementia
The patient’s daily activities are affected here, and the disease can be accurately diagnosed at this stage. Living independently is now a challenge to these people. The patient is confused by the inability to write checks, puts the wrong dates on bills, and performs personal chores like grocery shopping, and even cooking recipes. Remembering recent events like a trip outdoors in the morning may be entirely forgotten by evening. Failing to pay the rent, visiting people, or confusing days of the week and the events that occurred in the past are some more worsened situations. In all of the Alzheimer’s disease stages, this is called the ‘denial stage’ as some patients may try to deny what is happening to them, which lasts for about two years on average. It is also called the ‘moderate cognitive dementia’ phase or the ‘mid-stage dementia’.
Stage 5: Fairly severe cognitive decline
The patient has difficulty performing routine personal tasks like bathing, eating meals, wearing the appropriate clothes based on the season, etc. The severity varies in the patients, and the typical Alzheimer’s brain decline is seen at this phase where the memory of the home address or personal phone number is lost. They forget their current destination or activity altogether. Family members are ignored, the time of the day is confused, and delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia are experienced in the worst cases. This is the moderate dementia phase and lasts about one and a half years.
Stage 6: Severe dementia or cognitive drop
The 6a phase is recognised when the patient cannot dress efficiently. The clothes are worn wrong and need to be changed by a supervisor. Either the clothes are worn in the wrong order or inside out by the patient. This phase lasts for about 2.5 years. The 6b phase is when the patient has difficulty bathing and brushing teeth. Close supervision is needed even though they can still perform the task. The 6c, 6d, and 6e phases are when the patients cannot maintain personal hygiene, like forgetting to flush the toilet, urinating, or passing faecal matter without removing their clothes. Family members are confused with strangers or mixed up within the family. Counting backwards is complex, and emotional changes begin to manifest. Threatening, violent behaviour, emotional outbursts, frustration, unnecessary fears, and other psychological behaviour is increased considerably. On average, this phase lasts for about 2.5 years.
Stage 7: Acute Dementia
Critical cognitive decline is another name for this phase when the patient cannot speak or communicate. They constantly need assistance with performing every task from eating to bathing, personal hygiene, going to bed, and everything that happens. This late-stage Alzheimer’s disease is most profound and may go on for over two years.
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The total period for Alzheimer’s disease stages is between 4 to 20 years. But Alzheimer’s patients mostly survive from four to eight years once diagnosed. The different stages are essential to caring for Alzheimer’s patients and understanding how to administer Alzheimer’s medication.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
A build-up of specific proteins called ‘amyloid’ and ‘tau’ within or surrounding brain cells leads to Alzheimer’s disease stages.
What are the 5 early signs of Alzheimer’s?
Loss of memory, difficulty in learning new facts, decreased attention span, loss of logical thinking, problems in language, etc., are some early signs of Alzheimer’s.
What are the 3 treatments for Alzheimer’s disease?
Some Alzheimer’s medication names include Donepezil, Galantamine, and Rivastigmine.