The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease causes complex brain changes that may start as much as a decade before identifiable memory and cognitive problems appear.1 If you are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or care about someone who has this disease, understanding how the disease progresses will help you take the most meaningful steps to support yourself or someone you love.

Before we discuss the stages of Alzheimer’s disease in full, we should clarify the differences between early- and late-onset. The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s usually involve memory issues and difficulty with word-finding, spatial logic, and impaired judgment.1 When these arise in someone between the ages of 30 and 60, it is considered early-onset Alzheimer’s, while symptoms appearing after someone reaches their mid-60s is considered late onset.

According to the National Institute on Aging, the formal stages of Alzheimer’s include:1

  • Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Mild Cognitive Impairment
  • Mild Alzheimer’s Dementia
  • Moderate Alzheimer’s Dementia
  • Severe or Final Stage Alzheimer’s Dementia

Dementia is a medical term describing a group of cognitive symptoms that affect daily function. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are medications that can treat symptoms and research ongoing into ways to slow the progression of Alzehimer’s Disease.

Preclinical Alzheimer’s Stage

While it might be identified in a research setting, there are no symptoms at this stage of the disease, which might last years or decades. Advanced diagnostic imaging technologies can now identify protein deposits in the brain that are markers of impending Alzheimer’s disease.

The ability of researchers to identify these amyloid-beta protein deposits is expected to help develop new treatments for Alzheimer’s that can stop or slow the damage to the brain, memory, and cognitive function.2 Genetic tests can also help individuals identify if they share a family risk for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease while they are still in the preclinical stage.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Mild Cognitive Impairment or MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease is an early stage diagnosis. Symptoms have not yet begun to affect work or relationships, and not every case of MCI is a sign of early stage Alzehimer’s. Your doctor will review your symptoms and possibly use brain scans or genetic tests to confirm the cause.

Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment

  • Frequently losing things
  • Forgetting appointments
  • Difficulty remembering conversations or recent events
  • Problems with time management or the right order of steps in a task
  • More trouble recalling conversational words than others the same age

Mild Alzheimer’s Dementia

This is the stage where many people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The term dementia implies that the symptoms have begun to affect daily functioning and problems with memory and thinking become apparent. At this stage of the disease, you or your loved one may need assistance with daily activities for health and safety.

Symptoms of Mild Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s

  • Memory lapses that impact the ability to complete normal daily tasks
  • Losing things or leaving them in odd places
  • Wandering or becoming lost in familiar places
  • Poor judgment, personality changes, increased anxiety or aggression
  • Repeatedly asking the same question or questions
  • Problems with life tasks like paying bills, buying groceries, reaching appointments
  • Difficulty finding the right words to describe things or express emotions

Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease

Moderate Alzheimer’s disease and dementia become increasingly impactful on day-to-day activities. The person with Alzheimer’s at this stage begins to feel more confused and symptoms become more obvious. If a diagnosis was not made at the mild stage, it will almost certainly be made now based on the more severe symptoms and challenges the person experiences. Supportive supervision and help with self-care is essential to safety and comfort at this stage.2

Symptoms of Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Memory loss, confusion, and an inability to learn new things
  • Language problems with reading, writing, and organizing thoughts
  • Problems thinking logically, working with numbers, or paying attention
  • Inability to complete tasks like getting dressed or preparing food
  • Impulsive inappropriate behaviors like undressing or using vulgar language in public
  • Developing delusions or paranoia, failing to recognize or trust family, friends, and familiar people
  • Hallucinations, restlessness, wandering, and outbursts of anger that may be expressed physically
  • Muscle twitches and repetitive movements

Severe Alzheimer’s Disease

In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the impairment becomes more severe and begins to have a greater impact on physical abilities and movement. Mental function continues to decline, and some people may lose the ability to communicate verbally and become bed-ridden. The individual will need 24/7 supervision and help with all aspects of self care.2

Symptoms of Severe Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Inability to communicate clearly, may be limited to groaning, moaning, or grunting
  • Weight loss, skin infections, seizures, loss of mobility
  • Difficulty swallowing, which leads to an increased risk of aspiration pneumonia from accidentally inhaling food or liquids
  • Inability to eat, dress, or use the bathroom without assistance
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Providing Supportive Care for Alzheimer’s Disease

At some point in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, you or someone you care for will need special services and supportive home care. Maintaining independence with professional home support gives those with Alzheimer’s disease the highest quality of life and lets them remain in their familiar surroundings.

At Care To Stay Home in Spokane, our team of home care professionals helps seniors with the tasks of daily living and self care they need to maintain their dignity and independence. Our home care providers are inspired, compassionate, and trained for complex levels of homecare, including medication management, mobility assistance, essential physical care, and supportive companionship. We offer a free assessment to help you identify which services are most appropriate.

As an award-winning Home Care Pulse-certified provider, Care To Stay Home is your trusted choice for daily living, post surgical, stroke recovery, and Alzheimer’s or dementia care in Spokane. We also provide respite care services when you need a break as a caregiver and the peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved one is receiving the caring and professional help they need at every stage of life.