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The Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer’s Disease is a degenerative brain disorder that affects millions of older adults. Not every person affected by Alzheimer’s disease will experience the same symptoms, nor will the disease progress at the same rate for each person.

Doctors have identified certain stages through which Alzheimer’s patients progress. (Some doctors further divide early-stage Alzheimer’s disease into more specific sub-stages.)

The first stage occurs when there is no impairment and the person has yet to experience any memory problems or dementia. The second phase of mild Alzheimer's disease manifests as a mild cognitive decline and is analogous to normal age-related forgetfulness.

The first two stages occur prior to any detection of dementia.

Moderate Alzheimer’s disease is often the longest stage, which can last up to 10 years, and involves mild cognitive decline. During this stage, friends, family, co-workers and doctors begin to notice memory, concentration and/or cognitive issues.

Some examples of problems faced during this stage include noticeable difficulties finding the right word or name, increasing struggles with planning or organizing, and/or forgetting material that was just read.

Characteristics of this stage include forgetfulness about recent events and/or one’s own personal history, problems with spatial orientation, moodiness, withdrawal from social settings, and increasing difficulty performing tasks such as paying bills, budgeting and/or managing finances.

Moderately severe cognitive decline involves gaps in memory and thinking, inability to recall one’s address and/or phone number, confusion about what day it is and/or need for assistance to choose proper clothing.

And, late-stage Alzheimer’s disease involves very severe cognitive decline. In this final stage, patients may lose the ability to carry on a conversation, respond to their environment and/or control their movement. During this stage, patients often need help with eating, using the toilet and other personal care. Muscles often grow rigid, reflexes become abnormal and swallowing becomes impaired.

If memory loss increases in frequency or severity, makes an impression on friends and family, begins to interfere with daily activities (such as work tasks and/or interactions with friends and family), be sure to seek advice and evaluation by a physician with extensive knowledge, experience and interest in dementia and memory problems.

Alzheimer’s disease and multi-infarct dementia, which involves a series of small strokes in the brain, cause the vast majority of dementias in the elderly. Other possible causes of dementia-like symptoms include infections, drug interactions, metabolic or nutritional disorders, brain tumors, depression or another degenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.


Alzheimer’s Disease. Web. www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed 1 Jan 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-stages/AZ00041

Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s. Web. www.alz.org. Accessed 1 Jan 2012.

Alzheimer’s Symptoms & Stages. Web. www.ahaf.org. Accessed 1 Jan 2012.

Reviewed January 2, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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