If you’ve never personally dealt with a loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you may be unfamiliar with how the disease progresses. What starts out as simple as misplacing car keys can eventually result in a progressive loss of cognitive functioning diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease.
Understanding the seven stages of Alzheimer’s is valuable for older adults like yourself or your loved ones because it gives you an understanding of the signs to look for and pay close attention to over time. Knowing and understanding the seven stages of Alzheimer’s can help you better manage the disease for your loved one and follow its progression. Since timing and severity are different for every person who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what stage your loved one is experiencing. Frequently, stages overlap, which causes further confusion.
One of the most beneficial things to understand about cognitive decline is that changes in the brain related to Alzheimer’s disease happen before an individual ever shows symptoms. Often referred to as “pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease,” this can start anywhere from 10-15 years before individuals ever show any day-to-day changes.
Regular primary care visits are one of the best ways to keep up with screenings to help detect even the earliest symptoms or signs of the disease.
Forgetfulness is common. With the very early stages of Alzheimer’s, it’s difficult to distinguish forgetfulness from normal-aged absentmindedness. Forgetting people’s names, losing keys, and having memory lapses are all common at this stage. If you start to notice these signs in your loved one despite them continuing with daily activities, it’s best to get them checked by a physician to start treatment sooner that can help slow disease progression.
At this stage of the disease, there are more noticeable changes in memory that are difficult to blame on just typical age-related decline. It goes beyond misplacing keys or forgetting names. Symptoms can range from forgetting plans and losing words to experiencing changes in social settings and even having trouble remembering recent events.
Anxiety is common during this stage of the disease, so it’s important to meet with a medical professional to discuss treatment options.
Issues with thinking and reasoning become more severe during this middle stage of the disease. You might notice your family member forgetting details about themselves, forgetting the time of year, struggling with the telephone, or not understanding what is being said to them. Daily activities become more of a burden, and they might struggle to respond to their environment.
Once your loved one moves into the more advanced stages of Alzheimer’s progression, you’ll start to notice they really can’t live on their own without significant challenges. During this stage, it’s common for your loved one to forget people they know well and struggle to learn new things.
This stage can bring a variety of emotional changes that include hallucinations, delusions and paranoia, so it’s a critical time to consider memory care for your loved one if you haven’t already explored that care option.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one will start to forget key family members, including yourself. It might be hard to talk to them, and they’ll need 24/7 support and care. The best way to interact with individuals at this stage of the disease is through the senses. Listening to music, reading out loud, or giving a hand massage are all great ways to connect in a way they can easily process.
People in this stage are dealing with damaged brain cells that can cause severe mental and physical impairment. During this stage, your loved one’s body will start to shut down in a way that prevents them from communicating. At this point, they need around-the-clock care through a memory care facility that can help them maintain some quality of life.
As a primary caregiver, watching your loved one go through the seven stages of Alzheimer’s is mentally, physically and emotionally draining. You must do your part to get your loved one the support they need early on to help slow disease progression and maintain the highest quality of life possible throughout the Alzheimer’s journey.
At our Friendship Village Chesterfield and Friendship Village Sunset Hills locations near St. Louis, Missouri, you can find person-centered memory care delivered in a family setting. Our memory care team is certified as Montessori Dementia Care Professionals and focuses on the individual needs of each resident. We are a faith-based, not-for-profit senior living community that provides life-enriching activities and events to provide residents with the highest quality of life. We invite you to learn more about our unique memory care programming and contact us today to learn more about our approach.