Every person with Alzheimer’s disease follows a different path, but there are a lot of similarities in how the disease manifests itself. Some experts use the three-stage model that addresses the early, moderate and late phases of the disease. But more experts are turning to the seven-stage model, which breaks down the progression of the illness in more detail.
Let’s take a look at the seven stages of Alzheimer’s, a system that was developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University.
Stage 1: No Impairment
In this stage, there may be changes going on in the brain, but no symptoms are evident. Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable, and there are no flaws in memory or recall.
Stage 2: Very Mild Decline
Some minor memory problems start to develop during this stage, but they are not distinguishable from normal age-related memory loss. In fact, the person will likely do well on memory tests at this point, and the symptoms won’t cause concern to physicians or family members.
Stage 3: Mild Decline
By this stage, friends and family members may begin to notice that the memory changes in their loved one are becoming more evident. Physicians start noticing changes as well, and the patient may not score as well on memory or cognitive tests. Some of things that people struggle with in this phase are:
● Not being able to find the right word to describe something
● Not remembering the names of new acquaintances
● Planning and organizing
● Losing personal possessions
Stage 4: Moderate Decline
Stage 4 marks the middle of the progression, and by this point, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are apparent and the illness has typically been diagnosed. The symptoms have progressed from Stage 3, and friends and family members will notice that their loved one has trouble with simple arithmetic and difficulty recalling recent information. They may forget details about their life, and they generally lose the ability to manage money and pay bills.
Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline
As the disease progresses, patients need help with their day-to-day activities. They often need assistance with bathing, dressing and taking their medications. They may also suffer from extreme confusion and not be able to recall important information about themselves like their name or address.
What makes this stage separate from Stage 6 is that patients do have decent functionality. For instance, they may need reminders about showering, but they can do so independently. They can also use the bathroom independently, and they may recall the names of some family members who they see often, as well as parts of their histories.
Stage 6: Severe Decline
Patients in Stage 6 require constant supervision. They tend to wander and need assistance with daily living activities such as toileting and bathing. They may get very confused or be unaware of their current environment. Patients in this stage may also start to develop personality or behavioral problems.
Stage 7: Very Severe Decline
In this last stage of Alzheimer’s, patients are nearing death. The changes that occur are obvious and include a lack of communication and unawareness of their condition. They may still utter words or phrases, but they probably won’t make any sense. Patients need help with all daily activities, including eating, bathing and toileting. For some patients, it’s the inability to swallow that finally ends the illness.