Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia which gets progressively worse. It usually begins with short-term memory loss which doesn’t appear on the surface to be very problematic.
Since even those without Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia often have memory slipups, it usually isn’t until the condition gets worse that this mental health problem is diagnosed. As the brain and nervous system continue to fall prey to Alzheimer’s, an individual’s ability to function effectively on his or her own is threatened.
Mental health experts have identified separate phases of Alzheimer’s. By studying those who have suffered in the past, they can clearly define 7 different stages of this disease. Alzheimer’s is treatable but not curable, and eventually can become so devastating that the patient cannot care for themselves. Alzheimer’s can’t kill you, but the complications of decimated brain function can lead to death, with Alzheimer’s as a contributing factor.
The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University is credited with developing the most widely accepted system for breaking the overall Alzheimer’s condition into 7 different phases. Those 7 stages are as follows:
Stage 1 – No Noticeable Impairment
Stage 2 – Minimal Decline
Here is where memory loss begins to become a problem, but not so bad as to raise many concerns.
Stage 3 – Mild Decline
This is when not only the Alzheimer’s victim but also friends and family members begin to notice problems with memory and other cognitive issues. This is usually the earliest stage where medical professionals can diagnose Alzheimer’s.
Stage 4 – Moderate Decline
Alzheimer’s symptoms here are clear-cut and identifiable. Problems with simple arithmetic and an inability to recall details about a person’s past are often present. Someone may forget what they ate for lunch, and handling finances can be difficult.
Stage 5 – Moderately Severe Decline
This is the first stage where someone may express a need for help with what were previously easy to perform daily tasks and activities. In the fifth stage, an Alzheimer’s sufferer can experience high levels of confusion, and often times can’t remember simple personal details such as phone numbers and addresses.
Stage 6 – Severe Decline
Constant supervision is required at this stage. Professional care is often necessary. At Stage 6, an individual usually can’t take care of his or her own bathing and toileting needs, that person may develop severe personality changes, and may not be able to recognize friends and family members.
Stage 7 – Very Severe Decline
The final stage of Alzheimer’s disease is the most debilitating. Alzheimer’s removes a person’s ability to respond to his or her environment, and to communicate in most ways. Total care is needed, and while the individual may be able to speak specific words or phrases, what is being said usually has nothing to do with the person’s situation or surroundings. This is the terminal phase of the disease.
It is important to note that some health professionals recognize 3 general stages of Alzheimer’s disease progression. These are noted as early-stage, middle-stage and late-stage development. The early-stage is where mild symptoms are experienced. As the disease progresses it leads to moderate problems in its middle-stage, and eventually severe issues as late-stage Alzheimer’s takes over.
If you know someone who is exhibiting any of the classic signs of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, get a mental health professional involved immediately. Memory loss and diminished communication skills are not “normal” signs of aging. There could be something much more serious at work, Alzheimer’s or some other dementia-related condition, and early diagnosis is vitally important to minimize the impact on the patient, as well as his or her loved ones.