Alzheimer's disease typically progresses slowly in three general stages — mild (early-stage), moderate (middle-stage), and severe (late-stage).
Since Alzheimer's affects people in different ways, each person will experience symptoms - or progress through Alzheimer's stages - differently.
Overview of disease progression
The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease worsen over time, although the rate at which the disease progresses varies. On average, a person with Alzheimer's lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.
Changes in the brain related to Alzheimer's begin years before any signs of the disease. This time period, which can last for years, is referred to as preclinical Alzheimer's disease.
The stages below provide an overall idea of how abilities change once symptoms appear and should only be used as a general guide. They are separated into three different categories: mild Alzheimer's disease, moderate Alzheimer's disease and severe Alzheimer's disease. Be aware that it may be difficult to place a person with Alzheimer's in a specific stage as stages may overlap
Mild Alzheimer's disease (early-stage)
Although the onset of Alzheimer's disease cannot yet be stopped or reversed, an early diagnosis can allow a person the opportunity to live well with the disease for as long as possible and plan for the future.
In the early stage of Alzheimer's, a person may function independently. He or she may still drive, work and be part of social activities. Despite this, the person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects.
Friends, family or others close to the individual begin to notice difficulties. During a detailed medical interview, doctors may be able to detect problems in memory or concentration.
Common difficulties include:
Moderate Alzheimer's disease (middle-stage)
"During the moderate stage of Alzheimer's, individuals may have greater difficulty performing tasks such as paying bills, but they may still remember significant details about their life."
Moderate Alzheimer's is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer's will require a greater level of care.
You may notice the person with Alzheimer's confusing words, getting frustrated or angry, or acting in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. Damage to nerve cells in the brain can make it difficult to express thoughts and perform routine tasks.
At this point, symptoms will be noticeable to others and may include:
Severe Alzheimer's disease (late-stage)
In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating pain becomes difficult.
As memory and cognitive skills continue to worsen, significant personality changes may take place and individuals need extensive help with daily activities.
At this stage, individuals may:
Source: Alzheimer's Association®
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