Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of lives each year worldwide. The symptoms develop slowly and worsen over the years, although progress rates vary. Alzheimer’s disease affects most of the brain’s areas.
Alzheimer’s Dementia mainly affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, personality, and movement. Having your loved one or yourself with a critical disease condition will affect your daily life.
The foremost step in managing the disease is learning more about it, especially how it progresses. So, here are the stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Preclinical Alzheimer’s or no impairment
At this stage, you may only learn about your risk of Alzheimer's disease due to family history. Your doctor can identify your biomarkers indicating a threat. However, there will be no noticeable symptoms in the first stage that could last for years.
Abnormal accumulation of a ‘tau’ protein type around the brain and spinal cord fluid is associated with Alzheimer's development. You will be fully independent in this stage.
Very mild impairment
Alzheimer’s disease mainly affects older adults above 65 years of age. It is common to have some functional difficulties like forgetfulness at this age. However, if you have Alzheimer's, symptoms will appear at a greater rate than an individual of the same age without the disease.
It will be likely for you to forget familiar words, a loved one’s name, or the place where you keep something. Memory troubles will be mild at this stage that may not be apparent, but your family and friends may observe closely.
You can live an everyday life during the mild stage by controlling your health and wellness. You can function independently like driving, working, and participating in social activities. However, your work quality will decline, and you will find it challenging to learn new skills. You might need counseling at this stage.
Other common symptoms in the stage are –
- Getting lost on a familiar route
- Difficulty to recall what you read a while ago
- Not remembering new people or names
- Misplacing or losing a valuable object
- Reduced focus
- Difficulty in planning and organizing things or events
- Experience mild to moderate denial and anxiety
This stage marks the beginning of the appearance of Alzheimer's symptoms as they will become noticeable. Mood changes like denial and withdrawal will start becoming evident. You will face trouble in accomplishing everyday tasks.
It is probably the most extended phase that can last for many years. More damage to nerve cells will occur, making it difficult for you to express thoughts.
Common symptoms at this stage are-
- Reducing awareness of current or recent events
- Losing memory of your life's events
- Trouble in handling bills and finances
- Frustration or anger increases
- React unexpectedly at certain times
By this stage, the memory becomes worse, especially around life events and current news. You will display personality changes like frustration, fear of being alone, shame, fidgeting, and suspicion.
Symptoms include –
- Feeling withdrawn or moody, especially in social events
- Experiencing confusion about what you want to do and where you want to go
- Requiring help for choosing clothing for an occasion and wearing it
- Having difficulty in controlling bowels and bladder
- Experiencing changes in sleeping patterns. Sleeping more during the day and waking up multiple times during the night
- Exhibiting personality and behavioral changes. It includes delusions or suspicion and repetitive behavior
- Forget to flush or throw tissue paper away occasionally
At the end of this stage, the need for more intensive care increases. You can opt to live under intensive care at home or an adult care center.
Severe or last stage
Here, the symptoms become severe while you lose the capability to respond to the environment, be involved in a conversation, and control movement. Memory and cognitive skills worsen, need extensive care, and experience personality changes.
You may experience –
- Rigid and painful body movements
- Hardening of muscles, tendons, and tissues
- Finding challenges in walking, sitting, and swallowing
- Lose awareness of surroundings and recent experiences
- Vulnerable to infections, especially pneumonia
You can use support services like hospice care that provide comfort and dignity at the last stage.
Alzheimer's progresses slowly, and the symptoms' rate varies from person to person. The disease's severity increases with age as people with the condition may live between 4-11 years after diagnosis, and some may even survive 20 years. The above Alzheimer's disease stages will guide you in progressing and help in taking care of yourself or a loved one.