Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is often described as happening in various stages. The disease progresses through 3 stages which can include:

  • Early Stage
  • Middle Stage
  • Late Stage

Every stage of Alzheimer’s disease conveys additional mental, physical and emotional losses all of which require a different level and type of long term care and support. It has been described as childhood development in reverse because the person loses their functional and intellectual abilities a little at a time. In the first two stages of Alzheimer’s the person is aware that these things are happening. However, they can do nothing about these losses.

Early Stage Dementia

The most significant loss in the early stage is that of memory. Since memory loss is mild at first, family members and friends might just consider it to be “old age.” Some people with Alzheimer’s will make up for this loss and learn to cope in various ways. This stage can last as long as two years.

  • Memory loss causes the person in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease to have word-finding difficulties and difficulty answering questions about recent events
  • The individual can usually complete activities of daily living, such as dressing and grooming but will have more difficulty with higher-level tasks such as following complex instructions. They may get lost easily, even in familiar areas.

Middle Stage Dementia

In this stage, the symptoms continue to worsen. The person needs an increased amount of prompting in order to complete activities of daily living. Memory loss affects the skills necessary for daily living. During this time, many cognitive losses are present.

  • Aphasia is a clinical term used to describe language difficulties. People with aphasia have a hard time expressing themselves in a way that others can understand. This makes it very difficult to communicate.
  • Poor concentration results in the person not completing a task and becoming easily distracted.
  • Poor judgment causes the person to go outside in bad weather or not dress properly. For example, driving the wrong way on a one-way street or wearing summer shorts and sandals in the middle of winter.
  • Disorientation to time and place results in the person not being able to give the correct date or the name of the place they are in. They become confused and can easily become lost.
  • Difficulty with decision-making results in an inability to make even simple decisions. This results in frustration and possible “acting out” behavior. Basic decisions might get to complicated for them to make. Lack of impulse control causes the person to lose the ability to regulate socially inappropriate language or actions. An example could be using bad language in public and feel no embarrassment.
  • Delusions are false beliefs. Delusions common in persons with Alzheimer’s disease usually involve some form of paranoia or suspiciousness. For example, the person may think someone is stealing a valued possession when they have simply forgotten they hid the item for safe keeping.
  • Wandering is moving around with no evident purpose or destination. For many, wandering indicates the person is looking for something or someone. Maybe the person is looking for a toilet or something to eat. Regardless of the reason, wandering creates a dangerous risk for the person with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, the person can wander outside in inclement weather and not be able to find their way home again, or could walk into traffic.
  • Hoarding and rummaging is a common behavior seen in the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes, the individual may go through others belongings. They may collect things like tissues or other items.

Late Stage Dementia

This stage produces a steady decline in the person’s abilities to care for themselves. The individual has impaired short and long-term memory. This stage is difficult for family and friends to experience because the individual usually no longer recognizes them. Issues associated with Late Stage include:

  • Agnosia: Agnosia is the inability to identify items that are commonly used in activities of daily living. These items can also be used in an inappropriate way. For example, a person may pick up a pencil and attempt to eat with it or try to use a fork to write with.
  • Sundowning: Sundowning often happens in the evening when the person would normally be resting. The person wanders around and remains active when others are sleeping. This behavior can be dangerous and requires supervision by a caregiver.
  • Catastrophic Reactions: Catastrophic reactions can vary from mild to violent and may be explosive in nature. These behaviors are usually caused by some type of trigger. It is helpful to consider what event happened right before the person’s behavior.
  • Apraxia: With apraxia, the person is unable to use a familiar object correctly even though it has been identified for them. Something as familiar as a fork and knife can present a challenge when trying to recall how to use these common utensils.
  • Perseveration: Perseveration is the continuation of an activity after the stimulus for the activity is gone. For example, chewing food after the food is gone or repeating words or a familiar phrase over and over again.
  • Latency: With latency, there is no ability to start an activity such as bathing oneself. At this stage, the person does not even respond to cues effectively and may require 24 Hour Live-in Care

Top-Rated Home Care and Support for Dementia & Alzheimer’s Patients

Dementia Helpers offers specialized home care and support services to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients throughout Chicago and the North Shore suburbs including both Cook County and Lake County. We provide our in-home dementia care and specialized memory care services to residents of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Grayslake, Gurnee, Highland Park, Fort Sheridan, Highwood, Kenilworth, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Lincolnwood, Lincolnshire, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Round Lake Beach, Skokie, Vernon Hills, Wilmette and Winnetka.

We are backed with the resources of one of America’s largest and most trusted home care service organizations.