As with any chronic, gradual-onset malady, Alzheimer’s disease presents in a series of progressive stages or steps. While there’s a very subtle line between each Alzheimer’s stage, there are distinct hallmarks that set each one apart. There are seven recognized stages of Alzheimer’s, each of which must be determined by exhaustive clinical analysis. These stages can be classified into four main categories: pre-diagnosis, mild, moderate and severe.
Pre-diagnosis. An initial stage is recognized in which there are no discernible signs of disease. The second stage involves very mild cognitive decline, such as difficulty recalling words or remembering relatively minor details. This may not be perceived as a clinical sign of dementia, and may not even be noticeable by family, friends, or co-workers. Many simply chalk it up to a sign of normal aging. The third stage may still not be recognized as Alzheimer’s, but signs may be more apparent to the person’s loved ones. Symptoms may include difficulty concentrating, declining recall after reading or new introductions, difficulty organizing, and habitually misplacing important objects such as car keys or wallets.
Mild Alzheimer’s. By the fourth stage, there may be more clear-cut Alzheimer’s symptoms, such as difficulty recalling recent events. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people at this stage of Alzheimer’s “may demonstrate impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic—for example, counting backwards from 100 by 7s.” Complex tasks such as planning dinner for guests, paying bills or managing finances may become increasingly challenging. At this point, a careful interview by a medical care provider should be able to detect obvious symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Moderate disease. In stage five, Alzheimer’s patients will probably require assistance with day-to-day activities. They may not remember their own addresses or telephone numbers, or where they went to school. They may be confused as to where they are or even what day it is.
Severe Alzheimer’s stages. Stage six involves substantial memory and cognitive decline. Individuals at this stage will need help with virtually every activity in everyday life, including bathing, dressing and going to the bathroom. Personality and behavioral changes may run the gamut from paranoia to repetitive, compulsive manifestations. Constant supervision will be necessary, as patients may be prone to wander and get lost. In stage seven, sufferers lose their ability to respond to their environment. They have difficulty (at best) carrying on any conversation. While they may occasionally say words or phrases, eventually they’ll become uncommunicative and lose the capacity to control movement.