Alzheimer's DiseaseWith about 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease and many more fearful of getting this degenerative cognitive disease, it is helpful to learn the different stages. No two people get the same disease in terms of strict similarity of symptoms and time frames. There isn’t a crystal ball, but there is a known direction and somewhat of a time frame of 15 plus years. We do know that people with AD will most likely die of this disease or a complication of it once the progression affects the organs.

 Most of us recognize Alzheimer’s Disease as a cognitive disorder causing memory loss and confusion. There is more to it:

1st Stage: No cognitive impairment is noted. Folks at this point don’t show any substantial decline in memory and thinking – cognitive function.  No reason to go to a Neurologist.

2nd Stage: Very mild decline – A person may have some instances of forgetfulness, i.e. where they left their keys or trying to remember a certain name. Others may not notice this as anything other than “senior moments” where we forget something but can eventually retrieve the informant ion.  Would be a good time to meet with a Neurologist, but unlikely.

3rd Stage: Mild cognitive decline – Here is when family and friends notice the memory problems and perhaps some confusion. This is “Early-Stage Alzheimer’s. Common markers include the inability to plan, find the right word to use and poor recall of what was recently read.  Now is the time to contact a Neurologist and have memory tests. Something is wrong and can no longer be explained away by family.

4th Stage: Moderate cognitive decline – Known as “Mild Alzheimer’s”, symptoms are clearly noted in medical consultation and interview.  A person may show decreased ability to manage complicated tasks such as balancing a checkbook, getting needed items from the grocery store and have difficulty remembering some their own personal information – when they were married, how many children they have, and can seem withdrawn.  A diagnosis should be given and treatments/medications begun.

5th Stage: Moderately severe cognitive decline – This is commonly called the mid-stage of AD. The person will show undeniable gaps in memory and begin needing help with daily activities of self-care – hygiene, grooming, and continence care. They may be confused about where they are – orientation to time, place and person. Not be able to recall own personal information. In this stage, the family or spousal caregiver becomes very strained. The need for some help is indicated and attending a Day Care Program is recommended.

6th Stage: Severe cognitive decline – More help is required for personal care of daily activities, there may be changes in personality – irritability, combativeness, passiveness. Wandering may start, are unable to recall recent events – repetitive questioning may not recall name of or recognize family and friends. If the primary caregiver hasn’t gotten some counseling, support group for themselves, they should. Safety measures must be put in place for wandering and extra care is needed to give respite time to family caregiver.

7th Stage: Very severe cognitive decline – this is Late-Stage AD. The person loses the capacity to speak, respond to their environment and ultimately the ability to move freely. The person may have Hospice care in the home or be in a Memory Care facility as total care is required.