Memory Loss

Memory Changes

Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which an individual has mild but measurable changes in thinking abilities that are noticeable to the person affected and to family members and friends but that do not affect the individual’s ability to carry out everyday activities. A person with MCI experiences memory problems greater than normally expected with aging but does not show other symptoms of dementia, such as impaired judgment or reasoning.

People with MCI, especially MCI involving memory problems, are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias than people without MCI. However, MCI does not always lead to dementia. In some individuals, MCI reverts to normal cognition or remains stable. In other cases, such as when a medication causes cognitive impairment, MCI is mistakenly diagnosed. Therefore, it’s important that people experiencing cognitive impairment seek help as soon as possible for diagnosis and possible treatment.

Alzheimer's/Dementia

Every person with Alzheimer’s disease experiences the disease differently, but patients tend to experience a similar trajectory. The precise number of stages is arbitrary. Some experts use a simple three-phase model (early, moderate and end), while others have found that a further breakdown is more useful to help explain the cycle of the disease.

The most common system, developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University, breaks the progression of Alzheimer’s disease into seven stages. This framework for understanding the progression of Alzheimer’s disease has been adopted and used by a number of healthcare providers as well as the Alzheimer’s Association.

Here is summary of the seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease based on the ideas of Dr. Resiberg: Note: The first 2 stages are the most “stealth”, however, the most important stages in which an intervention is possible.

During this stage, Alzheimer’s disease is not detectable and no memory problems or other symptoms of dementia are evident.
The senior may notice minor memory problems or lose things around the house, although not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age related memory loss. The person will still do well on memory tests and the disease is unlikely to be detected by physicians or loved ones.
At this stage, the friends and family members of the senior may begin to notice memory and cognitive problems. Performance on memory and cognitive tests are affected and physicians will be able to detect impaired cognitive function. Patients in stage 3 will have difficulty in many areas including:
  • Finding the right word during conversations
  • Remembering names of new acquaintances
  • Planning and organizing
  • People with stage three Alzheimer’s may also frequently lose personal possessions, including valuables.
In stage four of Alzheimer’s disease clear cut symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are apparent. Patients with stage four Alzheimer’s disease:
  • Have difficulty with simple arithmetic
  • May forget details about their life histories
  • Have poor short term memory (may not recall what they ate for breakfast, for example)
  • Inability to manage finance and pay bills
During the fifth stage of Alzheimer’s, patients begin to need help with many day to day activities. People in stage five of the disease may experience:
  • Significant confusion
  • Inability to recall simple details about themselves such as their own phone number
  • Difficulty dressing appropriately
On the other hand, patients in stage five maintain a modicum of functionality. They typically can still bathe and toilet independently. They also usually still know their family members and some detail about their personal histories, especially their childhood and youth.
Patients with the sixth stage of Alzheimer’s disease need constant supervision and frequently require professional care. Symptoms include:
  • Confusion or unawareness of environment and surroundings
  • Major personality changes and potential behavior problems
  • The need for assistance with activities of daily living such as toileting and bathing
  • Inability to recognize faces except closest friends and relatives
  • Inability to remember most details of personal history
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Wandering
Stage seven is the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Because Alzheimer’s disease is a terminal illness, patients in stage seven are nearing death. In stage seven of the disease, patients lose ability to respond to their environment or communicate. While they may still be able to utter words and phrases, they have no insight into their condition and need assistance with all activities of daily living. In the final stages of the illness, patients may lose their ability to swallow.