Alzheimer’s Stages: What to Expect

What to Expect Alzheimer's Stages

Alzheimer’s Stages: What to Expect

Alzheimer’s Stages: What to Expect – According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are currently living with this Alzheimer’s. And by 2050, this number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million. This is alarming because Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the US.

This progressive disease starts out slowly, gradually worsening over time. For those who suffer, their memory, thinking, language, personality, and even their movement can be affected as the disease progresses.

Not every sufferer will experience the same symptoms and the disease progresses differently for each individual. That said, there is a similar pattern that most people follow as the disease progresses, this is referred to as the Alzheimer’s stages.

The Alzheimer’s Association breaks down this disease into three main stages; mild, moderate, and severe (or early, middle, and late). If you have a loved one who’s been diagnosed with this disease, it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge so that you can plan accordingly to care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Alzheimer's Stages: What to Expect
Alzheimer’s Stages: What to Expect

Disease Progression

Alzheimer’s Stages: What to Expect – it’s important to understand the general nature of this disease. On average, someone with Alzheimer’s will live four to eight years after their diagnosis but can live for as long as 20 years with the disease.

There are changes that happen in the brain related to the disease that begins to take place before there are any signs of the disease. This time period can last for years without the person knowing and is referred to as preclinical Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s stages provide a general idea of how abilities can change once symptoms appear. Again, this is meant to be a guide only, as each individual will progress a bit differently. It’s also important to keep in mind that it can sometimes be difficult to place a sufferer within a specific stage as the stages often overlap with each other.

Stage One: Early Alzheimer’s (Mild)

In the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s the person is unaware that they have the disease. The symptoms that they experience are commonly associated with the natural aging process and are not usually noticeable by family or healthcare providers. This is referred to as Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease.

During this stage, the person is usually functioning independently still. He or she will likely still be driving, working, and participating in social activities. ‘The person may notice during this time that they’re experiencing memory lapses like forgetting a name, familiar word, or the location of everyday items.

Some of the most common signs during this very first stage of the disease include:

  • Difficulty thinking of the right name or word.
  • Trouble remembering the name of people.
  • Difficulty performing normal tasks in a work or social setting.
  • Losing or misplacing an object of value.
  • Trouble getting organized or planning things out.

Stage Two: Middle-Stage (Moderate)

The middle stage of Alzheimer’s is typically the longest, usually lasting for many years. As the disease progresses, your loved one will require more care and attention as the symptoms of dementia are more pronounced during this time.

This is the stage when a person suffering may begin to confuse words, get angry or frustrated easily, or act out in unexpected ways. The damage to their nerve cells in the brain can make it difficult for them to express their thoughts clearly or perform simple tasks without help or assistance.

During this middle or moderate stage, your loved one will likely still be able to participate in daily activities, however, they may require some level of assistance. It’s usually at this point when a relative or caretaker begins looking to a skilled senior care facility as an option for reliable care in a safe environment.

The common symptoms during this stage will look different from person to person, but typically include things like:

  • Forgetting events or personal history.
  • Moodiness, particularly in mentally challenging situations.
  • Confusion about where they are or what day it is. 
  • Difficulty choosing weather or occasion-appropriate clothing.
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping during the day and not at night.
  • Trouble with bladder and bowel control.
  • Wandering and becoming lost.
  • Personality changes like compulsions, delusions, suspiciousness, and repetitive behaviors.
Alzheimer's Stages: What to Expect in later stages
Alzheimer’s Stages: What to Expect in Later Stages

Stage Three: Late-Stage Alzheimer’s (Severe)

This is the last and final stage of this disease and the symptoms are generally quite severe. During this time, individuals lose the ability to respond to the environment around them, carry on normal conversations, and eventually, to control their movements.

Your loved one may still be able to say words or phrases, but it becomes difficult to communicate properly, which can make it hard for them to communicate their pain.

As their condition declines and their cognitive skills continue to worsen, the changes in personality and ability to function will get to the point where full-time, extensive care in a dedicated facility becomes a necessity.

The important changes in this stage include the following:

  • Loss of the ability to care for themselves.
  • Around-the-clock care and assistance with activities of daily living become essential.
  • Difficulty communicating.
  • Changes in physical abilities like walking, sitting and even swallowing.
  • Vulnerability to infections like pneumonia.

This stage is particularly difficult for the patient’s loved ones as they feel as though they have lost the person they once knew. Although your loved one may not be able to engage with you as they once had, he or she still benefits from the interaction. Activities like listening to music or a comforting touch can help ease your loved one’s mind.

If your loved one is struggling with late-stage Alzheimer’s, they may already be living in an assisted care facility. At some point, your family member will be able to benefit from end of life services like Hospice which can provide comfort to your loved one is his or her last days.

Seek The Professional Help and Care Your Loved One Deserves

Alzheimer’s is a ruthless disease that unravels a challenging road to travel for both the sufferer and their loved ones. Knowing what to expect during this time of great change and uncertainty can help you to have a clearer picture of what’s happening and when to seek help.

If you have a loved one in any stage of Alzheimer’s, we invite you to reach out to our dedicated care team for information and support on your journey.

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