When a senior receives the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, those who love them often struggle to understand what to expect. While Alzheimer’s affects everyone a little differently, there are seven clinical stages that describe how the disease is progressing.
Taking time to learn more about each stage of the disease allows families to better prepare for the road ahead.
During stage one of Alzheimer’s disease, there are no detectable signs or symptoms. Memory is still intact and the older adult is able to live a normal life.
In stage two, the senior might forget where they left their glasses or to stop at the store for milk. While memory loss is happening, it is still difficult to detect and distinguish from the normal signs of a hectic life. Even if the older adult is given a memory test, they are likely to still score well.
At this stage of the disease, close friends and loved ones might start to wonder if something is wrong. The changes that become more apparent may include losing valuables, difficulty finding the right words, the inability to remember the names of friends or acquaintances, and problems with tasks that require planning or organizing.
This is the point in the disease when symptoms of Alzheimer’s are easy to detect. The senior will likely struggle with activities that rely on short-term memory. They might make mistakes when paying bills or when following a recipe. They may also have difficulty in keeping up with appointments or household chores.
A senior who reaches stage five of Alzheimer’s disease will usually need assistance around the home and with personal care. Grooming and dressing become more of a challenge. They are more likely to be confused and unable to remember important information, such as their phone number or address. Many adults at this point in the disease can still take a shower and use the toilet independently. While short-term memory makes it hard for them to remember new people in their life, they are usually able to remember the names of family and long-term friends.
At this stage of the disease, adults require constant supervision and assistance. This can make it especially difficult for families trying to manage a loved one’s care at home. Seniors in stage six of Alzheimer’s disease are often unable to recognize anyone except those closest to them. Wandering and agitation are common. Many are unable to control their bladder and bowels. For families, this stage of the disease can be emotionally devastating.
This is the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease. The adult may lose their ability to walk or talk. At this point, some families find the support of hospice to be beneficial.
The Alzheimer’s Association has resources to help you learn more about the disease, one is called Inside the Brain. It walks visitors through how a healthy brain functions, and how it is impacted as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
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