Despite the advancements made over time, Alzheimer’s disease remains a terrifying diagnosis. While it’s most common in those over the age of 65, the truth is, the onset can begin much earlier in life. And it doesn’t begin with instant memory loss.
While no two people are affected by the disease in the same way, typically, there are seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This framework for understanding the progression of Alzheimer’s has been used by a lot of health care providers. Just like any other disease, early detection is key to receiving treatment, so knowing the stages is extremely beneficial.
Stage 1: No impairment
During this stage, Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable at all. There is no memory loss or cognitive confusion. This may not seem scary at first, but it is disturbing to know that damage is already being done without leaving a trace of evidence.
Stage 2: Very mild decline
During stage 2, slight memory lapses are common. The person may forget common words and lose a few things around the house, but a medical diagnosis still won’t be possible.
Stage 3: Mild decline
When stage 3 hits, friends and family start to notice the person’s memory loss and confusion. The person may have trouble planning and organizing, keeping up with work, or following through on plans. Sometimes Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed at this stage, but since not all individuals have these exact symptoms, it can still be tricky.
Stage 4: Moderate decline
During this stage, Alzheimer’s disease is usually diagnosed. A medical interview should be able to detect clear-cut symptoms, such as a poor short-term memory and forgetting family history. Typically at this stage the person will need help managing finances and remembering to pay bills.
Stage 5: Moderately severe decline
When stage 5 hits, most Alzheimer’s patients need a lot of support. They will show a lot of confusion and need assistance with daily tasks such as cooking and getting dressed. They’ll also have confusion about dates and times.
As terrifying as this stage is, the one bit of good news is that many patients will still remember their own names and close family members.
Stage 6: Severe decline
At this heartbreaking stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the patients will need full-time care. They’ll begin to show even more confusion and unawareness of their surroundings, and others will notice major personality changes. During stage 6, patients will often start stuttering and become frustrated. They may start confusing family members and forget people entirely.
Stage 7: Very severe decline
This is the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Since it is a terminal illness, in this stage, the patients will be nearing death. Most lose the ability to speak, some lose the ability to smile or move without help, and all experience severe memory loss. This is a heartbreaking end to a terrible illness.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. FDA-approved drugs that slow the progression do exist, but it’s best to do all you can to prevent developing the disease in the first place. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding binge-watching TV are a few ways to help prevent dementia. But sadly, nothing is 100% effective.