Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that impairs the memory and other crucial mental functions. In the U.S., 5.5 million people are estimated to have the disease; 5.3 million of those are 65 and older, according to statistics from Alzheimer’s News Today. Common symptoms include memory loss and confusion. While no cure for this debilitative disease exists, some medications and management strategies may offer improvement in the symptoms.
Alzheimer’s is generally broken down into three stages: the mild, early stage; the moderate, middle stage; and the severe, late stage. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptom progression can vary from person to person. While some have survived 20 years with the disease, on average, people can live between three to 11 years after diagnosis.
Severity of the symptoms depends on which stage the person is in. Here is a list outlining what can be expected during each of the main stages, including their sub stages.
This stage has many variables, ranging from seeing no notable difference to
mild impairment. Some may be in the early stage for years and not know. There
can also be signs of normal forgetfulness, where close friends or family may
notice something is off. People in the earlier stage of Alzheimer’s can still lead
a relatively normal daily routine and live independently.
People who are close to someone in this stage may start to notice the signs. Some symptoms may include a decline at work performance, forgetting familiar words or names, or getting lost traveling on a familiar route. It is also common for anxiety and denial to become more pronounced emotions.
After they have been diagnosed, the person may need counseling and to consult a doctor about the next steps.
When symptoms have been pronounced for a few years, the individual will experience a more rapid decline as the disease progresses. They may have trouble with everyday tasks, mood changes are more evident, and they may have decreased awareness and memory.
Depending on how far along, care can vary from seeking counseling to helping them with writing checks, remembering addresses, and remembering important events.
This is when the person diagnosed with the disease will need more care and
support. The beginning of this final stage can last about one or two years. The
diagnosed person will more than likely still remember important names like their
own and family members, but other aspects like current major events or recalling
their address can be more difficult. The main change is that they will no longer be
able to live independently.
After one or two years, people with Alzheimer’s will progress into a more severe
decline that can last up to two to three years. This involves many degrees of care,
including helping them choose their own clothes and helping them dress. There is
also a decline of hygiene, where they may need help using the bathroom and may
begin to lose control of their bowels and bladder. Memory will worsen, and it will be
difficult to remember close family members, often confusing them with other people.
It is important to continue to implement consoling for behavioral and psychological problems, as personality changes become more pronounced. These can
include a fear of being alone, frustration, paranoia, and shame. Care will include
helping them with daily tasks and keeping up with their hygiene.
The final years of Alzheimer’s are quite severe, where the person will lose the
ability to respond to their environment. They will need help with most of their daily
tasks, including eating and moving. Their speech will become limited to only a few
words, and as the disease progresses further, speech will be down to only one
recognizable word. In the end, they will be unable to sit up or hold their head up
independently. The most common cause of death in late stage Alzheimer patients
is pneumonia, where the ability to swallow is lost, and people often inhale liquids
Caring for someone with this disease is no easy task. It will require a lot of help and support to provide adequate care. It can help to know what will be expected in each stage and to know what form of care is necessary. Support groups are a good option to utilize to help learn and exchange what best care tactics can be used when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.