The 7 Stages of Alzheimer's

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This seven-stage framework is based on a system developed by Barry Reisberg, M.D., clinical director of the New York University School of Medicine's Silberstein Aging and Dementia Research Centre.

Stage 1: No Impairment

The person does not experience any memory problems. An interview with a medical professional does not show any evidence of symptoms of dementia.

alzheimer's stage

Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline

Here, the problem is that it is fought to distinguish between normal age-related changes or earliest signs of Alzheimer's disease.

The person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses — forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. But no real symptoms of dementia can be detected during a medical examination or by friends, family or co-workers.

Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Decline

Early-stage Alzheimer's can be diagnosed in some, but not all, individuals with these symptoms.

Friends, family or co-workers begin to notice that the patient in question is having trouble. During a detailed medical review, doctors may be able to find problems with remembering things or a lack of concentration.

Common stage 3 difficulties include:

  • Noticeable problems coming up with the right word or name.
  • Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people.
  • Having noticeably greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings
  • Forgetting material that one has just read.
  • Losing or misplacing a valuable object.
  • Increasing trouble with planning or organising.

Stage 4: Moderate Cognitive Decline

Mild or early-stage Alzheimer's disease. It is at this point that most patients get diagnosed when they are examined by competent professionals. In this time period, a careful medical interview should be able to detect clear-cut symptoms in several areas:

  • Forgetfulness of recent events
  • Impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic — for example, counting backward from 100 by 7s.
  • Greater difficulty performing complex tasks, such as planning dinner for guests, paying bills or managing finances
  • Forgetfulness about one's own personal history
  • Becoming moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations

Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

Moderate or Mid-stage Alzheimer's disease. Medical and Occupational Therapies can have a lasting effect when initiated here. Gaps in memory and thinking are noticeable, and individuals begin to need help with day-to-day activities.

At this stage, those with Alzheimer's may:

  • Be unable to recall their own address or telephone number or the high school or college from which they graduated.
  • Become confused about where they are or what day it is.
  • Have trouble with less challenging mental arithmetic; such as counting backward from 40 by subtracting 4s or from 20 by 2s.
  • Need help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion.
  • Still remember significant details about themselves and their family.
  • Still require no assistance with eating or using the toilet.

Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Decline

Memory continues to worsen, personality changes may take place and individuals need extensive help with daily activities.

At this stage, individuals may:

  • Lose awareness of recent experiences as well as of their surroundings.
  • Remember their own name but have difficulty with their personal history.
  • Distinguish familiar and unfamiliar faces but have trouble remembering the name of a spouse or caregiver.
  • Need help dressing properly and may, without supervision, make mistakes such as putting pajamas over daytime clothes or shoes on the wrong feet.
  • Experience major changes in sleep patterns — sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night.
  • Need help handling details of toileting (for example, flushing the toilet, wiping or disposing of tissue properly).
  • Have increasingly frequent trouble controlling their bladder or bowels.
  • Tend to wander or become lost

Of note here are the major personality and behavioural changes. Suspiciousness, Delusions (such as believing that their caregiver is an impostor)or compulsive and repetitive behaviour like hand-wringing or tissue shredding.

Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline

Severe or late-stage Alzheimer's disease. In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to analyse, understand and react to their environment. Carrying on a conversation becomes almost impossible. Voluntary movements become un-coordinated. Though in speech they may still say words or phrases.

At this point, patients need help with much of their daily personal care, including eating or using the toilet. They may also lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their heads up. Reflexes become abnormal. Muscles grow rigid and even swallowing is impaired.

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