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Understanding the Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s

In my last post, I discussed several risk factors involved with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  I would now like to spend some time discussing the different stages of the disease and how the different stages may affect an individual’s behavior.  Scientists are sure of one thing: Alzheimer’s gets worse over time.  Although the disease affects different individuals in different ways, scientists have been able to break down the disease into a generalized seven-stage framework.

 

Stage 1 – No Impairment

A person functions normally in this stage.  An interview with a medical professional does not show any evidence of symptoms.

Stage 2 – Very Mild Decline

This decline may be normal age-related changes or may be the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s.  The individual may have memory lapses but no symptoms can be detected during a medical exam.

Stage 3 – Mild Cognitive Decline

In some individuals, early-stage Alzheimer’s may be diagnosed at this point.  Friends and family begin to notice difficulties.  A detailed medical interview may reveal memory or concentration problems.  Stage 3 difficulties may include trouble remembering names, forgetting material that one has just read or misplacing a valuable object.

Stage 4 -Moderate Cognitive Decline

At this stage of Alzheimer’s, a careful medical interview should clearly reveal problems in some of these areas: forgetfulness of recent events, forgetfulness about one’s personal history or difficulty performing complex tasks such as paying bills or managing finances.

Stage 5 – Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

At this point, an individual with Alzheimer’s has noticeable gaps in memory and needs help with day-to-day activities.  Individuals in stage 5 may be unable to recall their own address or phone number, become confused about where they are, or may need help choosing proper clothing for the season or occasion.

Stage 6 – Severe Cognitive Decline

At this stage, one’s memory continues to worsen, personality changes may occur and individuals need significant help with daily activities.  An individual may lose awareness of recent experiences, have trouble remembering the name of a spouse or caregiver, experience major changes in sleep patterns or need help dressing properly.

Stage 7 – Very Severe Cognitive Decline

In this last stage of the disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to the environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement.  Individuals in stage 7 need help with their daily personal care, including eating and using the toilet.  The Alzheimer’s Association also notes that “individuals may lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their heads up.  Reflexes become abnormal. Muscles grow rigid.  Swallowing becomes impaired.”

Summary

At Preferred Care at Home, we make it our daily goal to celebrate life, dignity and independence.  We also know that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease makes it very difficult to celebrate these three values.  Whether you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or if you are a caregiver for an individual with the disease, make it your goal to understand Alzheimer’s disease to the best of your ability.  Understanding leads to compassion, and compassion is what they need most.

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