Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that gradually worsens over a period of four to 20 years based on recent data from the Alzheimer’s Association. On average, however, most people live between four to eight years following diagnosis.
The progression of the disease may be different for each person, but typically, the sequence of this disease is consistent. Family caregivers should familiarize themselves with the progression and understand what may happen during each stage of the disease.
Stage One: Normal
In the first stage, a person with Alzheimer’s disease has no memory impairment and no apparent symptoms of dementia. This stage varies in duration and it could be years before an elderly loved one experiences any cognitive change.
Stage Two: Very Mild Cognitive Decline
A person with Alzheimer’s disease will experience forgetfulness. This is the stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more severe decline of dementia. It can include difficulties with memory, language and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes. These symptoms are often not noticed by the individual’s family members or physician.
Stage Three: Mild Cognitive Impairment
Individuals in this stage experience increased forgetfulness as well as slight difficulty with focus or concentration. These deficits, which are subtle, are more likely to be noticed by family members and others who are closely associated with the aging adult. Some of the signs to look for might include:
• Decreased work performance (for those in the workforce)
• Difficulty performing ordinary household tasks such as cleaning or paying bills
• Increased struggle to find the right words in communication
• Repeating the same questions over and over
• Difficulty concentrating
Stage Four: Moderate Cognitive Decline
In this stage, people may be in denial about their forgetfulness and other symptoms, and as socialization becomes increasingly difficult, they may begin to withdraw from family and friends. In this stage, a healthcare provider can easily identify cognitive decline in an examination and interview with the patient.
Stage Five: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline
During the fifth stage of Alzheimer’s, people begin to need help with many day-to-day activities. Additionally, your aging loved one may have difficulty recalling a recent holiday or visit with a relative. They may have a hard time remembering the week, month or what season of the year it is. Watch for these typical behavior patterns of a loved one in stage five of Alzheimer’s disease:
• Significant confusion
• Inability to recall simple details about themselves, such as their phone number
• Withdrawal from participation in activities and conversations because they are fearful of revealing their deficiencies
Despite the obvious deficits in cognition, persons at this stage can still manage independently in community settings. However, functional capacities become compromised when it comes to activities of daily life. Senior care services such as FirstLight’s Personal Care provide a variety of aid to assist with the activities of daily living.
Stage Six: Severe Cognitive Decline
In this stage, your aging loved one may not be able to live independently and will require substantial assistance to carry out day-to-day activities. You may notice they:
• Have little memory of recent events, as well as of their earlier life
• Forget the names of close friends and family members
• Have difficulty dressing or managing their personal hygiene
• Experience incontinence of bowel or bladder
• Have trouble with their speech
• Experience personality changes such as delusions, anxiety or agitation
It is important at this stage, and really any stage of this progressive disease, to make sure the caregiver takes care of themselves too. FirstLight provides Respite Care so that family caregivers can take short breaks. Stepping away for short periods, or even longer-term if needed.
Stage Seven: Very Severe Cognitive Decline
This is the final stage in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. At this stage, most people will have lost their ability to speak or communicate, and they often require 24-hour assistance with most of their activities, including toileting, eating, dressing and bathing.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, FirstLight Home Care is here to support you and your family. We help your aging loved one remain in the place they call home, and we support the family caregiver as the disease progresses.
Learn more and request additional information about our Dementia Care Program.
FirstLight Home Care is proud to CHAMPION the family caregiver, offering empathy, advice, and support for those who provide countless hours of care to their loved ones living with Alzheimer’s. We want to provide a helping hand, relieve some of the stress that comes with caregiving and give you back a few hours in your overwhelmingly busy day.
Alzheimer’s Association: www.alz.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov
Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation: www.alzinfo.org