Explanation of the Alzheimer’s Stages Timeline

Explanation of the Alzheimer’s Stages Timeline

As the leading cause of dementia, we should all be aware of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Know what to expect with the Alzheimer’s Stages Timeline.

More than 5 million American adults have Alzheimer’s disease, making it the most common cause of dementia – it is also the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. As common as this condition is, many people still don’t have a thorough understanding of the signs and symptoms, or even the course of progression for the disease. To protect yourself and your loved ones, take the time to learn about Alzheimer’s Stages Timeline so you can recognize the symptoms and seek treatment.

Stage #1: Preclinical Stage – No Impairment

During the first stage of Alzheimer’s there are no noticeable symptoms and no impairment in day-to-day tasks. You may be aware of a family history of Alzheimer’s, or your doctor might identify certain biomarkers that indicate a higher risk for the disease, but you won’t show any signs at this point.

Related: What is the Geriatric Depression Scale?

Stage #2: Very Mild Impairment

In this stage, you may experience a more rapid decline in memory than you would as a result of normal aging, but your symptoms won’t have a significant impact on your work or social activity. Family members and friends won’t notice the symptoms at this stage, as they are very mild.

Stage #3: Mild Impairment

In this third stage of Alzheimer’s, which can last up to 7 years, your symptoms may slowly become clearer over the course of several years and people close to you may start to notice the signs. You may have trouble learning new skills, you might have difficulty finding the right word, you might start to misplace things, and you may have trouble with concentration.

Stage #4: Moderate Impairment

At this point, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are apparent which makes this the first stage at which Alzheimer’s is actually diagnosable. This stage lasts about 2 years and is characterized by symptoms such as decreased awareness of current events, losing memory of personal history, difficulty with finances, and an inability to count backward.

Related: Early Signs of Dementia Checklist

Stage #5: Moderate Dementia or Moderately Severe Impairment

Stage five lasts for about 1 ½ years and the patient will require a lot of support during this stage, both physical and emotional. Patients in this stage may remember their own names as well as close family members, but they might have trouble recalling major events or details of their own lives, such as their address. They may become confused about time and place and may not be able to live independently any longer.

Stage #6: Moderately Severe Alzheimer’s

In this stage, there are five specific characteristics that develop over the course of about 2 ½ years. They include:

  • Difficulty dressing
  • Decline in oral hygiene
  • Forgetting to flush toilet paper
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Needing help with cleanliness

At this point, the patient’s memory will be much worse, especially for current events and personal history. The patient may exhibit personality changes as well, such as becoming suspicious or paranoid – they may also develop a fear of being alone or confuse family members.

Stage #7: Severe Alzheimer’s

In this final stage of Alzheimer’s, the patient will eventually lose their ability to respond to their environment and they’ll need help with all daily tasks. There are six sub-stages:

  • Speech limited to 6 words or fewer
  • Speech declines to just one recognizable word
  • Speech is lost entirely
  • Inability to sit up on their own
  • Grim facial movements instead of smiles
  • No longer able to hold the head up

In the early stages of the disease, Alzheimer’s may interfere with the patient’s ability to complete day to day tasks, though the impairment may be mild at first. Over time, however, the disease will progress to the point that the person requires 24-hour care. The seven stages listed above provide a detailed outline of what you can expect from this condition over the course of its progression.

Photo credit: Carla Castagno/Bigstock

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