Understanding the Stages of Alzheimer Disease
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. The disease affects as many as 5.4 million Americans. November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and a great time to improve your understanding of how to recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s and how it affects people.
A friend or parent who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may be living a healthy, active and social life. But seemingly benign symptoms of memory loss may be the first indication that your loved one should see their doctor.
Early stages of memory loss include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spacial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
A person going through these changes will probably notice that something is different, too. Offer support by accompanying them to visit their doctor. If they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s important they receive support in making legal, financial and care plans for their future.
This stage of Alzheimer’s may last for many years. It’s marked by an increased inability to perform tasks such as paying bills or driving a car. During this stage, seniors will likely remember many significant details about their lives, making the accompanying memory loss confusing. Signs that the disease has moved into the middle stage include:
- Acting withdrawn in social situations
- Having trouble remembering everyday information like a phone number or address
- Confusion about the date or current location
- Changing sleep patterns
- Becoming easily lost
- Trouble dressing appropriately for seasons or occasions
- Forgetting significant personal history
- Suspiciousness or compulsive behavior, like hand wringing
Seniors with middle stage Alzheimer’s may exhibit other unusual behaviors, such as showing signs of frustration, inhibition or anger. Often, these loved ones will require caregiver support, which may include developing routines and structuring daily activities.
In the last stage of Alzheimer’s disease, seniors eventually lose the ability to communicate altogether. They may still be able to say words or phrases, but actually expressing their wants and needs becomes impossible. Signs that the disease has entered this stage include:
- Requiring high level, around-the-clock help with activities of daily living
- Losing awareness of recent experiences
- Not understanding their surroundings
- Experiencing changes in the ability to do normal physical activities, such as walking, sitting and even swallowing
- Inability to communicate
- Becoming more vulnerable to infections, like pneumonia
Seniors with late stage Alzheimer’s require steady care in order to live their happiest, healthiest lives. Loved ones in this stage may not be able to control bodily movements, or communicate pain or unpleasant sensations, and may have trouble reacting to or engaging with their surroundings. At this stage, many people will benefit from professional care. Holiday Retirement’s Radiance Memory Care Neighborhoods offer long-term supportive memory care for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.