The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia which gets progressively worse. It usually begins with mild short-term memory loss which doesn't appear to be problematic.

Since even those without Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia experience memory slipups, it usually isn't until the condition gets worse that Alzheimer's is diagnosed. As the brain and nervous system continue to fail, the individual's ability to function effectively on his or her own is threatened.

By studying those who have suffered in the past, 7 different stages of Alzheimer's have been identified. The disease is treatable but not curable and eventually can become so devastating that one is unable to care for oneself. Alzheimer's may not kill you, but the loss of brain function results in complications that can lead to death.

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

New York University's Dr. Barry Reisberg is credited with developing the most widely accepted system for breaking the overall Alzheimer's condition into 7 different phases. Those 7 stages are:

  • Stage 1 -- No Noticeable Impairment
  • Stage 2 -- Minimal Decline

Memory loss becomes a problem but does not raise many concerns.

  • Stage 3 -- Mild Decline

The Alzheimer's patient, friends and family begin to notice problems with memory and other cognitive issues. This is usually the earliest stage where Alzheimer's can be diagnosed.

  • Stage 4 -- Moderate Decline

Alzheimer's symptoms are clear-cut and identifiable. Problems with simple arithmetic and an inability to recall details about a person's past are often present. Someone may forget what they ate for lunch. Handling finances can be difficult.

  • Stage 5 -- Moderately Severe Decline

At this stage someone may need help with what were previously easy to perform daily tasks and activities. An Alzheimer's sufferer may experience high levels of confusion and often can't remember simple personal details like phone numbers and addresses.

  • Stage 6 -- Severe Decline

Constant supervision is required. Professional care is often necessary. At stage 6 the individual is usually unable to take care of his or her own bathing and toiletry needs. There may be severe personality changes and they may not be able to recognize family and friends.

  • Stage 7 -- Very Severe Decline

The final stage of Alzheimer's disease is the most debilitating. Gone is a person's ability to respond to his or her environment and to communicate in most ways. While the individual may be able to speak specific words or phrases, what is being said usually has nothing to do with the person's situation or surroundings. Total care is needed. This is the terminal phase of the disease.

Some health professionals recognize 3 general stages of Alzheimer's disease progression -- early-stage, middle-stage and late-stage development. In the early-stage mild symptoms are experienced. As the disease progresses it leads to moderate problems in its middle-stage. Eventually severe issues present themselves as late-stage Alzheimer's takes over.

If you know someone who is exhibiting any of the classic signs of Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia, get a health professional involved immediately. Memory loss and diminished communication skills are not "normal" signs of aging. Early diagnosis of a serious condition like Alzheimer's or some other type of dementia can help to minimize the impact on the patient and loved ones. In some cases a curable reason for dementia symptoms may be found and successfully treated.

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