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What Are the Key Stages of Alzheimer's Disease?

Aug 18, 2023

Alzheimer's Disease


Alzheimer's disease is a progressive yet weakening neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects elders, while anyone can experience it. The disease brings cognitive decline, memory loss, and an overall decline in brain function. Statistically speaking, over 6 million Americans across all ages have Alzheimer’s, and it is calculated that 500,000 new Alzheimer’s cases will be diagnosed this year. As Alzheimer’s has become a prevalent disorder, increased awareness about the condition is necessary to take proactive measures on time.

Let us discuss the disease’s signs and stages and how to care for Alzheimer’s patients.

Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease vary depending on people and the stages of the condition. However, memory decline is the onset of the condition, and it can look like difficulty finding the right word, impaired judgment or reasoning, and trouble understanding spatial relationships and visual images. As the condition progresses, symptoms may worsen, including behavioral changes and increased confusion.

Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease progresses gradually, worsening over several years with different stages. In every stage, your brain function is affected significantly, and eventually, the condition affects most areas of your brain that, impair your cognitive functions, movement, and personality.

Here are different Alzheimer’s stages that help you understand how the disease causes varying symptoms depending on its progression:

Stage 1 - Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease

Preclinical Alzheimer's is when the condition has begun long before without causing apparent symptoms. During this stage, one may experience brain changes but won’t develop symptoms or cognitive decline. This stage can last for decades.

Though cognitive changes are not noticeable, they can be found through imaging techniques, biomarkers, and genetic tests. These tests may detect the proteins, such as beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles, the presence of which is a characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. Abnormal levels of these proteins may signal an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's in the future.

Stage 2 - Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

All elderly people come across this mild cognitive impairment that includes difficulty concentrating, memory loss, etc. So, it does not mean they have Alzheimer’s disease, as MCI may also occur due to chronological aging. Though MCI won’t interfere with your daily activities, it is essential to be aware of whether it is because of normal aging or the precedence of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Common symptoms of MCI are:

  • Trouble performing multi-step tasks
  • Depression
  • Forgetting conversations, appointments, or recent events
  • Lack of self-care
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Carrying out risky behaviors
  • Becoming confused about people, time, and places

Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Before proceeding to stage 3 of Alzheimer’s disease, you must understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s. While these terms are used interchangeably, they are different. Dementia is a severe memory decline that interferes with your daily activities, whereas Alzheimer's disease is a specific condition that causes dementia as a symptom. Alzheimer's disease becomes apparent when you exhibit mild dementia and related symptoms.

Stage 3 – Mild Dementia

It is characterized by an evident downturn in your cognitive functions that your friends and family can easily notice. One progressing to stage 3 of Alzheimer’s may experience these cognitive changes:

  • Misplacing things
  • Trouble recalling what they have just learned
  • Getting angry, shy, or irritated for no reason
  • Repeatedly asking the same questions
  • Difficulty completing tasks and solving problems
  • Poor decision-making
  • Exhibiting less interest in completing tasks
  • Trouble finding the right words to narrate an idea or object

Stage 4 – Moderate Dementia

It is characterized by increased forgetfulness and confusion, requiring assistance in completing daily activities and self-care. This stage can last for 2-4 years.

Symptoms of moderate dementia include:

  • Forgetting familiar locations and how to reach there
  • Wandering around looking for familiar places
  • Forgetting the season or day of the week
  • Trouble identifying friends and family
  • Mistaking strangers as family
  • Forgetting the contact address
  • Repeating favorite memories or narrating stories to fill the memory gaps
  • Requiring assistance in deciding what to wear
  • Uncontrolled bladder or bowel movement
  • Requiring assistance for grooming and bathing
  • Suspecting family and friends
  • Becoming restless, aggressive, or agitated

Stage 5 – Severe Dementia

This stage worsens the patient's mental and physical functioning, affecting their quality of life. Severe dementia increases a patient’s risk of developing lung problems, as they may have swallowing difficulties, so their foods and drinks may get into their lungs, causing problems such as pneumonia, aspiration, and lung infection.

Symptoms of severe dementia include:

  • Communication problems
  • Recalling their early stages of life
  • Unable to recognize familiar faces
  • Needing help in performing daily activities
  • Experiencing hallucinations
  • Having increased fall risks
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Spending more time in the chair or bed
  • Being aggressive towards caregivers due to confusion or fear

What Does a Caregiver Do for Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients?

Caregivers ensure that Alzheimer’s patients get the required attention, supervision, and care, offering them stability and independence. They create a structured environment to minimize confusion and assist with managing behavioral changes that often accompany these conditions. Additionally, caregivers update families on the patient's well-being, collaborate with healthcare professionals to adjust care plans and offer respite care options to ensure the patient’s and caregiver's overall well-being.

Caregivers for Alzheimer’s and dementia offer the following services to patients:

  • Walking assistance
  • Companionship
  • Respite Care
  • Household chores
  • Medication reminders and monitoring
  • Meal preparation
  • Bathing, dressing, and grooming

Get Specialized Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Services at Newport Home Care

if you are searching for affordable Alzheimer’s and dementia care services near me? Stop by Newport Home Care. From assistance with medication management to daily activities and emotional support, our caregivers provide various services to transform your loved ones’ standard of living and well-being. Contact us today to get a reliable caretaker for your loved one.

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