The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can vary from person to person, and they will change as the disease progresses. Please keep in mind that symptoms of stages can blend together, so it’s not necessarily black and white.
First stage. No impairment. There are no symptoms at all.
Second stage. Very mild impairment. Although nobody can yet detect these symptoms, the person may have slight memory lapses such as misplacing keys, forgetting appointment times and the occasional person’s name.
Third stage. Mild impairment. Now the person can have difficulty remembering people’s names when first introduced to them. Simple tasks at home and/or work can become hard to handle. It is harder to plan and organize things. More possessions get misplaced or lost. The person can forget things they have just been reading. Family and friends may start to notice some of the symptoms at this stage in the disease.
Fourth stage. Moderate decline. This is the point at which a medical professional can interview the patient and notice clear symptoms such as:
- Forgetting recent events.
- Forgetting their own past.
- Difficulty with hard math problems, organizing finances and paying bills.
- Trouble planning social events, such as dinner for family or social outings.
- Becoming withdrawn or moody, particularly in mentally challenging or social situations.
Fifth stage. Moderately severe decline. At this point there will be big gaps in the memory, and the person will require help with their daily activities.
- They may not remember their phone number and/or address, or where they went to college.
- They may not know what day it is, or where they are.
- The person will often need help getting dressed and choosing the right type of clothing for the season and occasion.
- The person might not be able to cope with simple arithmetic problems, such as counting backwards from 50.
- They can forget family and friends’ names and relationships.
Sixth stage. Severe impairment. The memory gets worse at this stage. The person’s personality will often change, as they become less able to cope with normal tasks. They will need help with many of the things they used to do on their own.
They may lose memory of their surroundings and of recent experiences. They may know their name, but they may not remember their past. They may recognize faces of people they know, but not names, including that of a caregiver, spouse or other family member.
They will need help getting dressed, because they might put shoes on the wrong feet and clothing on backwards or inside out. Sleeping habits will change; often times, they will sleep during the day and find it hard to sleep at night. They can wander off and get lost easily if unsupervised.
Significant behavioral and personality changes can happen, including delusions and suspiciousness (e.g., that the caregiver isn’t their caregiver), or repetitive, compulsive behavior such as shredding tissues, wringing hands, tapping fingers or stamping feet.
Toilet problems will emerge. They will need help wiping, disposing of tissues correctly and flushing. There may be more problems with bowel and/or bladder control at this stage.
Final stage. Very severe impairment. This is the last stage of this debilitating disease. The patient stops talking to other people, except for a few words or phrases. They can’t respond to the environment around them, and eventually find themselves unable to even control their moves.
They need lots of help with personal care, including eating and toilet visits. They will be unable to smile or show other facial expressions. They won’t be able to sit without support or hold up their head. Muscles become rigid and they will have trouble swallowing.
Alzheimer’s disease is incurable at the moment. Nevertheless, the sooner it’s detected, effective care can be provided, to give them as good quality of life as possible throughout these stages.