Alzheimer’s is a disease that we have all heard of but don’t know much about other than the fact that it is characterized by the loss of short-term memories, cognitive impairment and the gradual decline of mental ability. What many people don’t know is that this disease progresses slowly and there are several stages of it. Different symptoms show up at different stages. The reason why you should be aware of the stages is that if your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, then you will be in a better place to help and support them. The right action in the right stage can also slow down the progress of Alzheimer’s.
Read on to know more about the different Alzheimer’s disease stages to plan your loved one’s care better.
The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s
Since Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease, its progress can broadly be divided into 7 stages. However, there are no clear demarcations and the stages may differ from person to person. Here are some Alzheimer’s symptoms according to the stages:
- Stage 1 (Normal behaviour)
Unfortunately, Stage 1 is not associated with any symptoms. Early recognition of Alzheimer’s disease is very difficult. The brain chemistry change that happens can only be detected through a PET scan but will not trigger any symptoms. The signs show up years after the onset of the first stage.
- Stage 2 (Very mild changes)
The Alzheimer’s symptoms of this stage are minor and may be mistaken for memory losses that are considered as a part and parcel of ageing. You may notice that your loved one is forgetting names or misplacing objects too often.
- Stage 3 (Mild changes)
During this Alzheimer’s stage, changes in your loved ones’ behaviour become noticeable. They may:
- Forget names
- A recent event
- Ask the same question repeatedly
- Have trouble with organized thinking or planning.
During this stage, you can help by constantly jogging their memory (kindly), paying their bills, doing their shopping, fixing appointments for them and accompanying them as much as possible.
- Stage 4 (Moderate decline)
This Alzheimer’s stage is associated with an escalation of the stage 3 symptoms. Everyday tasks may become challenging for your loved one. Here are a few things you can expect:
- Not recalling the date or month
- Having problems with calculations
- Forgetting details about themselves
- Not being able to cook or organize shelves or cupboards
- Not comprehending what is being said to them
From this stage onwards, you will need to keep an eye on your loved ones so that no one takes advantage of them or tricks them. You can help with household chores and financial calculations. Make sure they do not drive anymore.
- Stage 5 (Moderately severe decline)
This stage of Alzheimer’s can be accompanied by:
- Forgetting the address, time of the day, basic details such as the school they went to, etc.
- Confusion and disorientation
Lay out their clothes, draw a bath for them because these gestures do help them and yet make them feel like they are independent. From this stage onwards, never let them go out alone, place an ID card in their pockets or get the primary caretaker’s phone number and address engraved on their bracelet or clothes. Answer their questions kindly and with patience because they need to know that you are there and they are not alone. They may still retain memories of their childhood and youth. Ask them to tell you stories from those by-gone years.
- Stage 6 (Severe decline)
During this stage of Alzheimer’s, your loved one will still recognise faces but may not be able to tell who you are. For example, a daughter may be mistaken for a sister. This is also when the person might start experiencing delusions such as getting ready for work even though they have retired for many years.
They may also have problems with:
- Getting dressed
- Routine activities
Communicating with your loved one is very difficult and painful during this stage. However, you can help in little ways, by taking them to the bathroom, playing music to them, reading to them and constantly keeping them company. This is also when you should hire caregivers for your loved one if family members don’t have sufficient time.
- Stage 7 (Very severe decline)
During this stage of Alzheimer’s, a person is no longer able to control their body. They are not able to walk, sit, lie down or eat. From this stage, it is very difficult to give all the support that the person needs without the help of caregivers. Many people institutionalize their loved ones during this stage so that they get the care that they deserve.
Alzheimer’s is equally difficult for the family and friends than the person diagnosed with it because they have to witness the steady decline of their psychological abilities. Despite the pain, helplessness and challenges, it is crucial to be patient, kind and generous through all the Alzheimer’s disease stages. Consulting the doctor regularly, counselling for patients and caregivers can be very helpful in managing the condition and slowing down the disease progression. You must not get frustrated or lose your temper. Remember, they can’t help it, they are losing their memories and cognitive abilities.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.