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The Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
Along with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis comes a flood of questions, both for the person with the disease and their family. The uncertainty of a future with Alzheimer’s is daunting, but by becoming more educated about the disease, you’ll be better equipped to help the person diagnosed live out their years with the condition as healthily and comfortably as possible. One of the simplest ways to prepare for a future with Alzheimer’s is to familiarize yourself with phases of the disease. Though the pace of the disease and the symptoms in each phase will differ between individuals, most people living with Alzheimer’s will progress through seven defined stages of the disease in some form or fashion.
Learn more about what you can expect through the progression of Alzheimer’s by reading about each stage of the disease below. You can also find out more information on our Baptist Health affiliate, the Ginny and Bob Shell Alzheimer's Center at Parkway Village, a certified Alzheimer’s Special Care Facility.
Stage 1: Normal Outward Behavior
Alzheimer’s begins without any outward symptoms. In the initial stage, Alzheimer’s typically goes undetected, as only sign of the disease would be found in a PET scan. PET scans are used to detect the protein plaques that are indicative of Alzheimer’s disease.
Stage 2: Very Mild Changes
The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s are small, and are often similar to the typical symptoms of aging, such as forgetting words or misplacing objects. Daily life is not generally not interrupted or compromised by this early stage.
Stage 3: Mild Decline
In the last stage of mild Alzheimer’s, symptoms of the disease will become more apparent.
A person in the mild decline stage will frequently lose objects, forget information they have recently received, struggle to remember words and names, ask the same question over and over and have trouble making plans and staying organized.
Stage 4: Moderate Decline
As a person with Alzheimer’s moves into the moderate phase of their disease, their condition will become much more apparent, even to those who don’t know them well. During the moderate decline stage, they will have trouble performing basic household tasks. They may also be unable to recall the date, month or season. Basic everyday functions like making a meal or ordering food will also become difficult.
Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline
When Alzheimer’s advances to the severe decline stage, the person will forget what time it is and where they are at the moment. As the person loses more and more mental function, they are likely to become moody, withdrawn and have trouble sleeping. People with moderately severe decline stage of Alzheimer’s may wander or get lost.
Stage 6: Severe Decline
The severe decline phase of Alzheimer’s is marked by an increased difficulty recognizing familiar faces, as well as delusional thinking. A person entering the severe phase of Alzheimer’s will also eventually lose awareness of their surroundings, and will have no recollection of recent events.
Stage 7: Very Severe Decline
During the final stage of Alzheimer’s, a person will lose the ability to perform basic functions such as swallowing, walking, sitting up, using the restroom and communicating. The person will need around-the-clock care and attention to ensure they are as comfortable as possible.
Alzheimer’s is a daunting diagnosis, but by better understanding what you can expect from the disease, you can lessen anxiety surrounding the future and create a more comfortable environment for the person living with the disease. Learn more about the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and the treatment available at Baptist Health, how you can help a family member who has Alzheimer’s, and the exceptional care available to patients at the Ginny and Bob Shell Alzheimer’s Center.