What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a common term for the loss of intellectual abilities that are serious enough to interfere with daily functioning. The disease is progressive and fatal. It results in decreasing skills in memory, judgment, decision-making, and orientation to physical surroundings, and language.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of normal aging, but the risk of the disorder increases with age. About 5 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have Alzheimer’s disease, while nearly half the people over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s. A working diagnosis of Alzheimer disease is usually made on the basis of the neurologic examination. Although the disease may vary in duration from 3 to 20 years, studies have shown the average time of survival from the initial diagnosis to be 4.2 years for men and 5.7 years for women.
Alzheimer’s Disease 10 Warning Signs
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or at leisure.
4. Confusion with time or place.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
8. Decreased or poor judgment.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
10. Changes in mood and personality.
Stages of Alzheimer’s
Individuals with a diagnosis and their families are often curious about what stage the disease is in, what comes next and how long the person will live. The stages of Alzheimer’s disease are often referred to as early, middle and late. Within the first two stages, the symptoms are often different from one person to the next. The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease offers a more in depth look into the different stages of this disease.
The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
STAGE 1 – No impairment. Normal function.
The person does not experience any memory problems. An interview with a medical professional does not show any evidence of symptoms.
STAGE 2 – Very mild decline. May be normal age-related changes or the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s.
The individual may feel that he or she is having memory lapses – forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. No symptoms can be detected during a medical exam or by friends, family or co-workers.
STAGE 3 – Mild cognitive decline. Early-stage Alzheimer’s.
Friends, family or co-workers begin to notice difficulties. Common difficulties at this stage include:
- Noticeable problems coming up with the right word or name.
- Noticeably greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings.
- Increasing trouble with planning or organizing.
STAGE 4 – Moderate cognitive decline. Mild or early-stage Alzheimer’s.
At this point, a careful medical interview should be able to detect problems in several areas, such as:
- Forgetfulness of recent events.
- Forgetfulness about one’s own personal history.
- Becoming moody or withdrawn, especially in social or mentally challenging situations.
STAGE 5 – Moderately severe cognitive decline. Moderate or mid-stage Alzheimer’s.
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:
- Become confused about where they are or what day it is.
- Have trouble with less challenging mental arithmetic.
- Need help choosing proper clothing for the season or occasion.
STAGE 6 – Severe cognitive decline. Moderately severe or mid-stage Alzheimer’s.
Memory continues to worsen, personality changes may take place and individuals need significant help with daily activities. The person may:
- Distinguish familiar and unfamiliar faces but have trouble remembering the name of a spouse or caregiver.
- Experience major personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions.
- Tend to wander or become lost.
STAGE 7 – Very severe cognitive decline. Severe or late-stage Alzheimer’s.
In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to the environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases.
At this stage, individuals 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. Swallowing is impaired.