Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys cognitive function and memory. It’s the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all cases. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a build-up of plaques and tangles in the brain. The different stages of Alzheimer’s can be difficult to identify because they overlap and change over time. Keep reading to learn more about the different Alzheimers stages.
The Early Stages
Early onset is the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s and usually begins before age 65. The early stage of Alzheimer’s disease is the mildest. In this stage, people may experience memory problems, confusion, and changes in mood and behavior. Other symptoms include increasing forgetfulness about recent events or conversations, getting lost in familiar places, reduced judgment skills, problems with abstract thinking (such as understanding percentages), mood swings, and social withdrawal. However, they can still take care of themselves and live independently.
The Moderate Stages
The middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease are characterized by a gradual decline in cognitive abilities and an increase in symptoms such as confusion and disorientation. The patient may also experience mood swings and behavioral changes, such as irritability and agitation. As the disease progresses, the patient may become increasingly reliant on others for help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. In the later stages of the disease, the patient may become bedridden and lose the ability to speak, eat, or drink.
The Late Stages
The late stages of Alzheimer’s disease are a time of great difficulty for both the person with the disease and their caregivers. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s will experience increasing memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with everyday tasks. They may become agitated, restless, and even aggressive. The caregivers of someone with Alzheimer’s must often cope with difficult behaviors and the physical and emotional challenges of providing care.
Several strategies can help make the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease easier for both the person with the disease and their caregivers. It is important to create a safe, comfortable environment for the person with Alzheimer’s, one that is free of clutter and confusion. Simple tasks and routines can help make life easier for them, and caregivers should try to keep their daily routine as consistent as possible. It is also important to provide plenty of opportunities for socialization and stimulation, as these can help reduce agitation and confusion.
The Very Late Stages
In the latest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, patients require continuous assistance with basic activities of daily life to survive. This may include help with bathing, dressing, restroom use, and eating. As the disease progresses, speech becomes even more limited, to at most a single intelligible word. Once the majority of speech ability is lost, the ability to help themselves without assistance is often also lost. Patients may become wholly bedridden and unable to communicate their needs. They may also lose the ability to control their movements and experience seizures and extreme weight loss. Ultimately, this stage of Alzheimer’s leads to death, typically from pneumonia or other infections.
Coping with a loved one with late-stage Alzheimer’s can be very difficult. It is important to remember that they can no longer understand what is happening around them or make decisions for themselves. They may be agitated and restless, which can frustrate caregivers. It is important to provide a calm and supportive environment as much as possible while still meeting their needs. This includes ensuring that they are comfortable, well-nourished, and safe at all times. Caregivers should also seek support from friends or professionals to maintain their own emotional well-being.
Gaining a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and its progression can help caregivers and loved ones provide better support and care for those who are affected by it.