Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder and it’s the most common type of dementia. While the different stages don’t always fall into neat boxes, as the disease affects people in different ways, better understanding how the condition unfolds allows you to offer your loved one with Alzheimer’s more support, as well as plan for their care.
Alzheimer’s disease usually starts silently, with the individual exhibiting little or no outward symptoms. Impairment at this stage can only be detected by medical tests, which would reveal an abnormality in the brain that looks like it might eventually lead to more serious dementia symptoms down the road — the early signs can now be detected roughly 10 years before a person would first exhibit any outward symptoms.
Very Mild Decline
At this stage, symptoms are very subtle. The affected person may become a bit forgetful, finding it difficult to remember names, recall recent events, or remember where they left certain objects. The symptoms at this stage don’t interfere with the person’s ability to work or live independently. However, forgetfulness can be a more general change that comes with aging and therefore does not immediately mean Alzheimer’s.
This is the stage where family members, friends, and loved ones may notice changes to the person’s mental abilities, such as repeating information, having trouble with their short-term memory, and being less able to make and execute plans. At this stage, the affected person may need help with remembering to pay bills and get to appointments on time.
The problems in thinking and reasoning that appeared in the previous stage now get more obvious and new issues also appear. Your loved one may forget details about themselves, struggle to use the phone in some way, and may have difficulty understanding what is said to them. At this stage, the individual likely has some form of dementia.
Moderately Severe Decline
The person will likely lose much more information as this stage progresses. They may not know the time and day of the week, the month or the season of the year, they may forget their address, and the names of friends and extended family. They may lose track of where they are. Assistance will likely be required with most household tasks such as cleaning, shopping, cooking, etc.
As Alzheimer’s progresses further, your loved one may have trouble remembering the names of their spouse, children, and friends and may mistake a person for someone else. Delusions might appear, such as thinking they need to go to work even though they no longer have a job. Basic functions such as eating and going to the bathroom may require help from others. Increasingly dramatic changes in personality can appear.
Very Severe Decline
This is the final stage of the disease, characterized by severe mental impairment, which can include the inability to communicate or in some cases move around. A person with Alzheimer’s can become completely bed-bound at this stage and a lot of additional help may be required from caregivers. This is the point at which many families find that, even though they want to, they can no longer take care of their loved one by themselves and start looking for additional help such as at-home care.
While it’s intimidating to read through all the different stages of dementia at once, it’s important to be prepared for situations that may arise in the future. If your loved one gets diagnosed with dementia, you’ll instinctively want to do your best to help them feel comfortable and cared for appropriately.
Our best advice is to focus on the present and make the most of the stage that your loved one is currently in with the disease. As caregiving isn’t easy, make sure that you’re also getting adequate help, both to help your loved one thrive and to help you better cope with the situation. A good first step is taking our Home Care Assessment, which will help you score your loved one’s well-being on six different parameters.