Understanding The Stages of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

different stages of alzheimer's and dementia

Forgetfulness can become more common with age. While misplacing your keys or calling someone by the wrong name aren’t something to be too worried about, more serious lapses in memory could be a sign of something more serious, like Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a medical term that describes the loss of cognitive functioning. As it progresses, Alzheimer’s can affect one’s ability to carry out daily activities, and patients will become more dependent on their caregivers in later stages.

If an aging loved one is struggling with a memory condition, understanding the stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia can help you assist in managing the disease.

Stage 1: Before Symptoms Appear

Changes in the brain related to Alzheimer’s begin before symptoms are noticeable. The pre-clinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease may begin 10 years before people begin to experience symptoms. It’s not possible to treat anyone at this early stage. It’s important to keep up with regular healthcare visits to screen for signs of disease.

Stage 2: Basic Forgetfulness

The early stages of Alzheimer’s can look like normal, age-related forgetfulness. Your loved one may experience common memory lapses but they can still function independently. If you notice a dramatic increase in these occurrences, you may be able to have your loved one start treatment sooner and help slow the progression of the disease.

Stage 3: Noticeable Memory Difficulties

The third stage of Alzheimer’s disease will bring more noticeable changes, and most people are diagnosed in this stage. Your loved one may have trouble remembering materials that they read recently, plans that they made, names and words. They may experience challenges in social settings or at work, and will feel anxiety about what’s going on. The best way to manage further symptoms is to talk to your loved one’s doctor about treatment options.

Stage 4: Advanced Memory Loss

This stage of Alzheimer’s disease can last for many years. It will lead to further trouble with language, organization, and decision-making. Situations that require a lot of effort such as attending a social gathering can be frustrating. Your loved may experience: 

  • Confusion about what day it is and where they are
  • Increased risk of wandering off or getting lost
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as restlessness at night and sleeping during the day
  • Loss of interest in activities they typically enjoy
  • Feeling withdrawn, moody or anxiety

Stage 5: Decreased Independence

Up until the fifth stage of Alzehimer’s, your loved one may have been able to live independently without significant challenges. As the disease progresses, our loved one will likely have trouble remembering people that are important to them, such as close family and friends. Basic tasks like getting dressed may become too much for them to handle. They may also begin to experience hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.

Stage 6: Severe Symptoms

Your loved one will be experiencing more severe symptoms during the sixth stage of Alzheimer’s. Verbal communication will become more difficult, and they will depend on others for assistance with daily tasks. Behavioral changes will continue to occur, and your loved one may become irritated or frustrated with you. It’s important to remain calm and patient and try to remember that they lack awareness of their actions.

Stage 7: Lack of Physical Control

Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells, which can eventually cause severe mental and physical impairment. Your loved one will likely need round-the-clock care for help with walking, sitting and eventually swallowing. Due to their reduced mobility, their body can also become vulnerable to infections, such as pneumonia. To help avoid infections, it is crucial to keep their teeth and mouth clean, treat cuts and scrapes with an antibiotic ointment right away, and make sure they stay up to date on vaccinations.

Compassionate Memory Care for Your Loved One

Understanding the stages of Alzheimer’s can help you prepare for what comes next and communicate with your loved one’s doctors. At Courtyard Manor, we offer a safe and comfortable place for your senior loved one to age. Our philosophy, training, and engagement focuses on meeting your loved one where they are. This unique approach provides comfort, joy and a higher quality of life for those with dementia.  Schedule a consultation to learn more about our assisted living communities.

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