Alzheimer’s Disease is an unfortunate ailment that affects so many families around the world. It’s likely you either know someone who has been affected by this disease, have a family member battling the disease, or you are experiencing it yourself. If you’re a caregiver of someone combating this disease that affects more than six million Americans as of 2021, you might be curious about what to expect in the upcoming months and years.
According to The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, there are seven clinical stages of the disease to be aware of. While some of these stages will come quickly, others take more time to go into effect. Whichever role you play in the life of someone living with the disease, it will be beneficial to be aware of these stages.
1. Is it dementia or forgetfulness?
One of the first stages of Alzheimers is tricky because most people of a certain age tend to start to experience forgetfulness, which doesn’t always mean they have Alzheimer’s disease. Memory loss is definitely one of the first signs, but it could take decades of living with dementia for it to become apparent to the person experiencing it or others around them. If you are curious if this stage might lead to more serious cognitive issues, consult with a physician to run some tests.
2. Forgetfulness becomes apparent.
At least half of people over the age of 65 tend to experience some type of age related forgetfulness or cognitive and functional difficulties. Some of the symptoms of this state include being unable to recall names as well as they could a decade previously or forgetting where they placed something.
Memory problems affect a majority of the population at some point, but there is some evidence that people with these symptoms tend to decline at a much faster rate than those without subjective complaints.
3. Mild cognitive impairment comes into play.
This stage of Alzheimer’s Disease progression is still early, but some of the symptoms shown include repeating questions, the inability to learn new things, and job performance decline. After consulting with a physician and getting a clear diagnosis, it might be beneficial to retire early or cut back on daily tasks to help avoid emotional distress.
4. Cognitive abilities continue to decline with mild dementia.
At this stage of the disease the cognitive abilities will continue to decline and symptoms might include an inability to manage finances, the inability to remember numbers and dates, and having difficult with simple tasks such as going to the grocery store. The average duration of this stage of the disease is two years, although it varies among patients.
Something to consider at this stage is figuring out what to do with the patient’s finances, insurance, and other matters of their estate. Researching about things like are insurance settlements taxable and life insurance policies would be beneficial to explore as a caregiver or family member.
5. Cognitive decline becomes moderately severe with moderate dementia.
At this stage dementia becomes more outwardly apparent to those around the person suffering from the disease. There will be a significant difference in how the patient manages basic activities throughout daily life, and most patients are unable to function on their own. The average duration of this stage is 1.5 years.
6. There is severe cognitive decline with moderately severe dementia.
At this stage it is important to expect issues like behavioral problems and mental function to decline more quickly and severely in a shorter amount of time. Social activity may decline and delusions may start to inhabit the patient as well. There are several sub-stages within this stage, so if you’re experiencing it as a caregiver, it’s important to understand how each sub-stage operates as well.
7. There is severe cognitive decline with severe dementia.
The final stage of the disease will require continual assistance in order for the patient to survive. Speech is expected to be severely limited and the ability to move around is severely inhibited. The life expectancy after patients reach this stage isn’t expected to last more than a few years, but that can be prolonged depending, on the quality of care they receive.