If you have an aging loved one with Alzheimer’s, you may be looking for more information about the illness. Your loved one’s doctor surely told you what to expect from the disease, including memory loss, mood and personality changes, etc., and perhaps your loved one has already progressed to the point where they need help from a home care aide to do their daily activities.
Alzheimer’s manifests itself differently in every person who has it. However, there are seven main stages of Alzheimer’s, some of which you may have encountered already. Let’s take a look at what to expect as the disease progresses. If you know what is coming, you will be better able to handle it, and to prepare yourself for the experience.
In the first stage of Alzheimer’s, there is no impairment. There are no visible signs of the illness; the person is normal, and can function normally with no problems.
The disease is still largely undetectable at Stage 2, as its symptoms are very mild. Perhaps your loved one occasionally loses something around the house, or becomes a bit forgetful. It won’t seem like anything serious, just the memory loss that is expected as one ages.
This is the stage in which friends and family members will begin to notice that something is off. A doctor can diagnose Alzheimer’s at this stage, because at this point, your loved one will have marked cognitive and memory impairment. They will often forget words when they are speaking, have trouble remembering the names of people they just met, and trouble making plans and enacting them. They might also begin to lose things more often, including their valuable possessions, and not remember where they put them.
At Stage 4, the brain is in what doctors call “Moderate Decline.” This means that your loved one will have difficulty remembering things from their own life, difficulty doing simple math problems (which makes them unable to handle their own finances), and have poor short-term memory.
Stage 5 begins the point where one might benefit from a home care aide. While the person will still be functional (meaning, able to go to the bathroom on their own and remember their loved ones for the most part), they will have trouble dressing themselves correctly, or remembering simple things about themselves like their address or phone number. They will also suffer from a lot of confusion, which can make day-to-day tasks extremely difficult to handle.
Stage 6 begins the severe decline in brain function. The person will need constant monitoring, because they could begin wandering aimlessly. They will most likely only remember a few faces, and will remember little to nothing about themselves or their surroundings. They will have mood swings and severe personality changes, and perhaps even loss of control of their bladder or bowels.
In this final stage of Alzheimer’s, one is unable to do anything for oneself. Often, the ability to communicate is gone, and the patient has no idea who or where they are. Sometimes, they even lose the ability to swallow, which can be very dangerous. Stage 7 is followed by death.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, this list will be hard to read. But perhaps it is better to know what to expect before it happens, so that you can brace yourself for what is coming.