No two people are alike and that is true of patients experiencing the stages of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that robs one of his or her ability to reason, remember and function by slowly killing brain cells. The Alzheimer’s Association has outlined seven stages of Alzheimer’s based on research done by experts in the field. This information can guide families thorough this disease that is often difficult to understand.
Some patients may skip some stages of Alzheimer’s or some may be in one stage for many years. Alzheimer’s patients live an average of three to 20 years after they are diagnosed.
In the first stages of Alzheimer’s, the patient shows no symptoms. They are functioning normally and are completing everyday activities.
In the second of the stages of Alzheimer’s, the patient may begin to have memory lapses. They will forget where they put the glasses, keys or shoes. Family, friends and co-workers will notice this forgetfulness.
It is often not until the third stage of Alzheimer’s that the symptoms really become noticeable. Unlike the previous two stages of Alzheimer’s, patients can no longer hide their difficulties. During the third stage, patients forget the names of family or close friends, begin to lose their ability to plan and organize and often misplace objects. Family, friends and co-workers will notice a decline in their work and perhaps in their social skills.
In the fourth of the stages of Alzheimer’s, patients are beginning to forget current events. Simple math becomes a challenge. Bills may go unpaid, housework may be neglected. At this stage of Alzheimer’s patients may withdraw from social settings they once enjoyed.
In the fifth of the stages of Alzheimer’s, patients are more challenged by every day tasks. They may wear a fur coat in July and shorts in January. They don’t know what day it is. They can’t recall their phone number or where they went to high school.
Even though the stages of Alzheimer’s and their symptoms vary from person to person, by the sixth stage there is usually a noticeable decline in the patient. Many times during this stage of Alzheimer’s the patient is not aware of what is happening around them. The need help getting dressed, going to the bathroom and handling day to day activities. The patient may have delusions or hallucinations and forget the names of those around them.
It is in the very last stages of Alzheimer’s that the disease is most brutal. In the seventh stage, the patient is usually totally dependent on someone else. In addition to all the changes in the previous stages of Alzheimer’s the patient may lose their ability to walk, sit up or even hold their head up. They need to be fed, toileted and there is usually general incontinence. Their speech is often unrecognizable.
A physician is the only person who can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. The family physician can also offer advice and refer caregivers and private nurses for Alzheimer’s patients. The Alzheimer’s Association also provides a wealth of information on the stages of Alzheimer’s.