Alzheimer’s is  a disease that does not discriminate.  There will be good days and then there will be rough days.   This disease affects  the human brain in a very individualized manner , no two  people  will experience the same changes at the same time; nor will each person display the same symptoms in any uniform pattern.  Even the disease’s rate of progression will vary, anywhere from two years to twenty!

So what does dementia of Alzheimer’s type look like on the surface?  For decades it was believed that there were three stage:  early, middle, and final.  The common trends include memory problems that worsen over time, inability to care for oneself and an inability to recognize familiar people and places.  Finally, death comes to put an end to this dreadful disease.

Recently Doctors at the New York University School of Medicine ‘s Silberstein Aging and Dementia Research Center recognize that there are ” Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s”.  This is a new framework of understanding for doctors and caregivers to use.

  • Stage One:  There  are no symptoms.  This stage demonstrates that the diseases begins its destructive processes years before there are any signs or symptoms present.
  • Stage 2: Very Mild Decline . The person may feel like they have some memory lapses or “senior moments”.  There is evidence of very mild cognitive decline, which may be normal age-related changes or the very earliest of signs of Alzheimer’s disease.  This is a hard stage for everyone.
  • Stage 3: Mild Decline or mental decline. Family, friends or co-workers start to notice subtle differences.  The patient has not recognition of any problems.  The patient will deny having problems.  A doctor may be able to detect memory problems or with concentration
  • Stage 4: Moderate Decline in cognitive functions. The patient is now viewed as having mild or early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.   Symptoms will include:
    • forgetting recent events
    • problems performing complex tasks such as paying bills or cooking a meal
    • forgetting their personal history
    • becoming moody or withdrawn
  • Stage 5: Signs of moderately severe cognitive decline becomes clear.  There are clear gaps in the individual’s memory and thinking abilities.  Signs of the progression of the disease include:
    • cannot remember their address or phone number
    • confused about what day it is
    • needs help picking out proper clothing for the season
  • Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline is seen. The person’s memory continues to worsen.  Personality changes may take place.  The person may become paranoid, hostile, angry and aggressive or docile, pleasant, and cooperative. The person will need extensive help with taking care of themselves.  Not uncommon for people to wander away from home
  • Stages 7: Very severe cognitive decline is evident. The person is in the severe or late-stage of Alzheimer’s.  In this final stage, the patient loses their ability to recognize or respond to her/his surroundings.  They are unable to carry on a conversation with anyone.  The patient is unable to control all movements, speech will become difficult and limited to one word phrases, help with all personal care is required and reflexes are abnormal.  Urinary and  respiratory infections are common and are often fatal.

These Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s serve as a guideline, there are still events not covered  in the stages.  Caregivers and loved ones should look for red flags to alert them for a possible Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  Caregivers and loved ones should look for difficulty following conversations. poor judgment with finances, anxiety and confusion all warrant an evaluation by a neurologist.

On a positive note, thanks to the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and the growing variety of allopathic and alternative treatments that are now available , many people are living high-quality lives for many years before any major decline in function necessitated alterations to their daily activities.