The Seven Stages of Alzheimer's Disease Explained
There are seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and understanding each stage is a useful aid in setting your expectations whether you might have the disease or you’re caring for someone with the illness.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disease which affects the brain through damaged nerve cells. It is the most common form of dementia.
This disease can affect memory (which is the most common), thinking, language, problem-solving, and even body functions, at worst.
It can be divided into three major stages, which are mild, moderate and severe. The average timeframe for the mild stage is 2-4 years, 2-10 years for moderate, and 1-3 years for the severe stage.
In this article, we’ll expound each stage and break them down to seven stages starting from its mildest form to the most severe.
Stage 1: No Impairment/Normal Behavior
Stage 1 has no noticeable symptoms and can be characterized as normal behavior.
The risk of having Alzheimer’s disease is often linked to lack of brain exercise or can also be hereditary.
However, there are many tests needed to be done to properly tell if a person has one at this point.
The common tests include:
Positron emission tomography PET Scan
Being diagnosed in stage 1 Alzheimer’s disease can last from a year up to 10 years.
Symptoms usually start in people's mid-60s, but early onset of it can start as early as the age of 30.
Stage 2: Very Mild Changes In Behavior
Jumping into stage 2 will show very mild changes in behavior. The symptoms can be simple and are usually not caught by doctors.
Simple signs such as misplacing objects or finding the right words to say may be a sign that someone is in the second stage.
The symptoms may be missed because it can often be attributed to signs of aging.
At this point, the signs are still manageable and can still allow the person affected to work normally.
This stage may run for at least seven years.
Stage 3: Mild Decline
Stage 3 is often noticed by close family members who may have contact with the person regularly. Mild decline in cognitive functions may be seen.
Some signs may include: forgetting what you just read, difficulty in recalling names of new people you meet or decreased concentration on different things.
Other signs may include difficulty counting backwards from 100 to 0 by 7 and decrease of awareness of current events.
The daily routine of the person becomes more disrupted at this point.
Stage 4: Moderate Decline
This stage is the middle ground in terms of the severity of Alzheimer's disease. This is where a moderate decline in functions will be noticed.
The damage of the brain at this point is past affecting the cognitive part but can now affect other aspects of the brain such as speech.
The memory of the distant past may become more clear to the people affected than new information being thrown at them.
Examples are forgetting what was shown on the news that day and remembering more relevant and personal information such as which city you grew up in or the name of your spouse.
Sleep patterns are commonly seen to be affected -- such as being restless at night and resting at day time.
Wandering and getting lost at this point can be a potential problem.
This stage can last for about two years.
Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline
This is where it starts to get worse. It is the stories we hear of people having this disease -- where hallucinations, delusions and paranoia will be experienced.
Learning new things and simple tasks such as dressing up can be a concern.
Knowing the time and date can become difficult. But it is still possible to have them to remember their own names.
This stage typically lasts for at least 1 - 1 ½ years.
Stage 6: Severe Decline
Stage 6 offers a severe decline in behavior and can be noticed when a person who has AD has difficulties managing themselves. Round the clock personal assistance is required.
Communication with them can be difficult at this point since speech will be affected.
A sign you’ll notice that they are at this stage is when counting backwards from 10 to 0 becomes challenging.
At this point, recognizing faces can be hard. They may even recognize someone as someone else.
Behavioral patterns will also be affected since delusions, anxiety or agitation is highly likely to happen.
Stage 7: Very Severe Alzheimer’s
The last stage of this disease affects the entire body to function just like how it did before.
At this point, full assistance is required because eating, walking and talking are highly affected.
The person with Alzheimer’s disease at stage 7 might not be able to talk. Swallowing can also be affected, which can lead to choking if not monitored well. That is why the diet should be in liquid form to avoid this.
The body may begin to shut down since this is the time where the mind might find it difficult to communicate with the other parts of the body.
Extreme care should be done at this point.
Are There Ways to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease?
Many pharmaceutical companies are working on a cure for Alzheimer’s. While there is no approved medicine yet, there are ways to reduce the risk of getting this disease.
For one, cardiovascular diseases are commonly linked to AD. Therefore, keeping yourself in tip-top shape is important.
What are the things you need to consider to improve your cardiovascular health to help avoid this disease?
Minimize alcohol intake
Keep a balanced diet
Regular health checkups
Besides having great cardiovascular health, which can also reduce the chance of stroke or heart attack, keeping your social and mental health up can help a lot.
Reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia by:
Reading a lot
Learn to play musical instruments
Taking up sports
Maintain an active social life
Manage the mental behavior and function to slow the symptoms down if there are any signs.
Knowing the seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease is important especially for people who are entering their forties. It is also a way to take care of yourself, a relative or friend who might be suffering from this disease.
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