If you want to know about the 7 stages of Alzheimer’s disease and their symptoms, you’re in the right place.
This article will help you understand what each stage looks like, the disease’s potential causes, how you can enable a loved one to live with the condition, and more.
The Causes of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease has been extensively studied, but medical professionals haven’t found its exact causes so far. What researchers do know is that the condition impacts parts of the brain and its protein makeup, and this typically happens throughout the course of several years.
Some researchers suggested that Alzheimer’s could be linked to a person’s health, habits, and surrounding environment. Others said that genetics might also play a role.
Here are a few of the main possible causes of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Certain infections, such as herpes simplex virus and Porphyromonas gingivalis.
- An excessive and irregular buildup of proteins in the brain.
- A head or brain injury (albeit a person could still be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s without having a head injury).
- Immune system problems.
- Inflammations and inflammatory reactions.
- Malnutrition and a lack of vitamins.
- A restricted blood flow (common with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health issues).
- Toxins and harmful substances.
If you, a family member, and/or friend are exposed to these risk factors, there are specific signs that can tell you when to see a doctor for a screening.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
The following are the symptoms that Alzheimer’s patients regularly experience:
- Asking or repeating the same questions.
- A bad or questionable judgment and decision making.
- Difficulties with managing money and paying bills.
- Frequent wandering, which may cause a patient to get lost in public areas.
- Loss of memory.
- The patient doesn’t take the initiative or act independently/spontaneously.
- They spend more time than they usually do on simple day-to-day tasks.
- They often lose their personal belongings or put them in unusual areas.
You should remember that Alzheimer’s takes years to develop, and these symptoms might not appear until the disease is in its second stage.
However, if you are providing care for a friend/family member who has Alzheimer’s or is at-risk for getting it, you need to understand how the condition evolves in each stage, starting with the first one.
The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
Stage 1: Before Symptoms Appear
Your loved one will begin to experience adjustments in their brain, but these changes don’t affect their behavior or memory. Because of that, the initial phase of the condition can’t be identified or noticed.
Stage 1 is also referred to as preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, and it manifests itself for 10-15 years before the detectable symptoms start to appear in stage 2.
Stage 2: Basic Forgetfulness
Here, the patient will become increasingly forgetful, even more so if they’re older. This may be mistaken for a typical tendency to forget. Yet, over time, the symptoms get harder to ignore.
In stage 2, your loved one may forget things like friends and family members’ names, as well as where to put personal and household items. For example, they might misplace their shoes and eyeglasses or store them where they don’t belong.
The family members and friends of an Alzheimer’s patient are likely to notice these symptoms before their loved one does. This highlights the importance of taking them to their doctor once these signs develop so that they receive an evaluation and potential diagnosis.
Stage 3: Noticeable Memory Difficulty
Patients frequently get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s during stage 3, which is characterized by the following memory changes:
- They struggle when trying to remember a certain name or word that they previously knew.
- The patient may have a hard time with organizing themselves, making plans, and remembering appointments and social events.
- They forget about books, magazines, and other materials that they newly read.
- Their social and professional lives become increasingly challenging.
After stage 3, the disease’s impact extends to functions beyond the memory.
Stage 4: More Than Memory Loss
In stage 4, your friend or family member may begin to remember old memories more vividly than recent ones. For instance, they might still know the names of their childhood friends, but not those that they met in the past few years.
Another common symptom in stage 4 is wandering, which could cause your loved one to get lost from their party in public places. Similarly, a lot of Alzheimer’s patients forget where they are, whether it’s in a public area or a friend/family member’s home.
They might also not be aware of what day of the week it is, experience a shift in their sleep schedule, and run into confusion when getting dressed in a way that suits the weather.
In short, here are the main areas that Alzheimer’s patients struggle with in stage 4:
- Math and calculations
- Verbal and language capabilities
- Day-to-day tasks (but they may not require help until the disease progresses to stage 5)
Stage 5: Decreased Independence
At this point, most Alzheimer’s patients will need assistance with common tasks and activities. This is because the disease makes them go through emotional issues that impact their ability to live independently, including the following:
- Delusions: Delusion occurs when a person has a strong belief that appears obviously false to others. As an example, an Alzheimer’s patient may have a delusional suspicion that someone is spying on or stalking them.
- Hallucinations: A hallucination is seeing a person or object that doesn’t exist or isn’t actually there.
- Paranoia: Paranoia is characterized by a sense that those around you want to harm or hurt you.
In addition to these emotional changes, your loved one could forget the names of people like their family members, relatives, CDPAP caregivers, and long-time friends. They might forget major dates, such as birthdays and anniversaries, too.
During stage 5, you must ensure that your friend or family member has the care that they need and, when necessary, someone who can live with them. This is especially important prior to stage 6.
Stage 6: Severe Symptoms
In stage 6, your loved one’s symptoms will get more severe. This might affect the way that they communicate, how they respond to their surroundings, and their personality.
Specifically, your friend or family member could struggle when they want to express their thoughts and feelings. This possibly means that it would be hard for them to let you know that they’re in pain or suffering.
In the same vein, your loved one may not be able to adequately and promptly react to changes in their surrounding environment, such as when guests enter the home to visit them.
Additionally, the personality of an Alzheimer’s disease patient normally changes in stage 6. They may become more anxious or easily frustrated.
The symptoms of stage 6 are typically followed by physical developments that manifest themselves in stage 7.
Stage 7: Lack of Physical Control
Due to how the condition alters the brain, your loved one will likely grapple with both physical and mental challenges in stage 7 of Alzheimer’s disease. This means that they may no longer be as mobile as they were before, and they might need a wheelchair.
For that matter, most patients require 24/7 care and support once they reach stage 7 since they can’t live independently.
How long do the 7 stages last?
Starting from the day on which they were officially diagnosed, the majority of Alzheimer’s patients live with the disease for between 3 to 11 years. The length and quality of their lives depend on the amount of care and support that they receive.
Your Role as a Caregiver
As a professional or personal caregiver of a friend or family member who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, your main role revolves around providing them with the day-to-day help, support, and care that they need.
This entails one or more of the following duties:
- Assist them with getting dressed.
- Do their chores.
- Help them host friends, family members, and guests.
- Prepare meals for them.
- Remind them to take their medications.
- Take them to and from doctor appointments.
The severity of your loved one’s symptoms will determine the roles that you must perform and the amount of support that they require.
Keep in mind, though, that being a caregiver is very time and energy-consuming. The job also has a lot of emotional, mental, and physical demands. All of this can make you feel fatigued and overwhelmed.
Therefore, you want to ensure that you take care of your own health and psychological well being to avoid burnout. This allows you to stay sharp and focused so that you could immediately spot any concerning Alzheimer’s disease symptoms once they appear.
This is even more important when your friend or family member is exposed to the potential risk factors.
From there, you should maintain a positive and optimistic mindset as you stay by your loved one’s side while they go through the 7 stages of the disease. By doing this, you are increasing the likelihood that the Alzheimer’s patient will lead a long and high-quality life after their diagnosis.