Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, symptoms will get worse as time goes on. It’s important to remember that each case is unique in that people differ in terms of their biological make-up, as well as the environmental factors they’re exposed to. With that being said, there are clear characteristics experienced within the early, middle, and late stages.
Stages of Alzheimer’s
Being the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s can often be summarized into three stages. Symptoms may vary from person-to-person, but regardless, symptoms worsen as time progresses. This is due to damage in the brain which generally spreads, affecting more areas of concern.
When first diagnosed, symptoms tend to be fairly mild. Patients can typically still maintain their independence, as their abilities and normal behaviors tend to remain intact during the early stages. Many attribute their symptoms to stress or bereavement within those who develop early-onset, and older individuals typically chalk symptoms down to the normal aging process.
The earliest symptom tends to be forgetting recent events or struggling to remember a common word. Also, learning new information tends to be challenging. If you are caring for someone during this stage, support them but also encourage their independence. Really focus on what they can do instead of what they can’t, supporting them if necessary.
As this disease progresses, symptoms become more obvious and more changes occur. At this point, many day-to-day activities will need to be assisted. It’s common for individuals to forget names and places and they will often repeat the same sentences while communicating with others. Greater behavioral changes will also be experienced within this stage.
Confusion will increase and they may confuse once well-known people with others. Since forgetfulness significantly increases, you should become more concerned with possibly dangerous situations, such as forgetting to turn the oven or stove off. Depending on the individual, they may also become more aggressive and frustrated. This is the stage in which sundowning often begins.
At this point, the affected individual will become increasingly dependent on others to care for them. It is possible that those within the late stage will no longer recognize people close to them, familiar objects, and experience specific flashbacks. Physical symptoms can also develop, as the individual become weak and can struggle to walk.
A critical thing to remember is that just because someone cannot respond and they may not recognize you, it’s believed that they still respond to affection and calm voices. Music and pets have also been shown to be an effective way to bring a sense of peace.
For the most part, individuals who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s typically live eight to ten years after onset. However, life expectancy does vary depending on the individual case. There are plenty of factors involved, so it’s recommended that you work closely with your healthcare provider to create a potential treatment plan that fits your needs or your loved one needs.
Grout, G. (2015). The Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. Alzheimer’s Society. Retrieved from http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=133