Welcome to the 2nd piece of our 4-part blog series highlighting helpful information about Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). In this article, we will define the 3 stages of AD, the importance of early detection, and what information you should take to your doctor regarding Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Early (Mild) Stage
The most common early symptom is trouble recalling something you just learned. Some other common symptoms are:
- Forgetting things like where you placed personal items
- Getting lost in familiar environments
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks, like paying bills, handling money, making dinner
- Difficulty making decisions, poor judgment
- Having trouble coming up with the right words sometimes
- Repeating questions
- Visual/spatial issues and slow reaction times
- Having mood and personality changes, irritability, anxiety, and depression
If you or a loved one have these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. Most cases of Alzheimer’s are diagnosed in this stage. With early detection, a health care professional can prescribe medications or treatment that may slow down memory loss, preserve function for some time, and provide support for the diagnosed individual as well as family members.
Mild Alzheimer’s can last for years. A loved one may function quite well overall and be able to live on their own. But they will need to rely on a strong support system of family, friends, and caregivers to ensure their safety, health, and well-being.
Middle (Moderate) Stage
This is the longest stage of Alzheimer’s. It can last many years, depending on the individual. Damage occurs in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. Symptoms include:
- Short-term and long-term memory loss, such as forgetting home address or phone number, not always recognizing family or friends, etc.
- Increasing difficulty communicating with others
- Demonstrating very poor judgment
- Having trouble carrying out multiple-stepped tasks such as getting dressed, personal care, hygiene tasks
- Being restless, resistive, or combative with physical care (often toward loved ones)
- Potential for wandering away from home
- Personality changes such as hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, depression, anxiety, anger, impulsiveness, or violence
When a loved one has Moderate Alzheimer’s, providing care may be taxing for the primary caregiver. Many families benefit from home care services, such as Luba Services, Inc., which will provide support from nursing assistants that are trained in Alzheimer’s care. Loved ones with Alzheimer’s might also need to move to a facility specializing in Alzheimer’s care, such as an assisted living center or nursing home.
Late (Severe) Stage
In late-stage Alzheimer’s,a loved one may no longer be aware of where they are or remember their life history. Other symptoms are:
- Inability to recognize others, or recognizing familiar faces but not names
- Difficulty communicating due to decreased vocabulary
- Demonstrating habits like wringing hands or shredding tissues
- Diminishing physical abilities, including decreased mobility, strength, difficulty with eating, and incontinence
- Wandering and getting lost
- Increasing personality changes, withdrawal from surroundings
With Severe Alzheimer’s, family members will need a great deal of help with daily activities and personal care. By the final stage, plaques and tangles have spread throughout the brain, and brain tissue has shrunk significantly. Those with severe Alzheimer’s cannot communicate and are completely dependent on others for their care. Near the end, your loved one may be in bed most or all of the time and are more prone to illnesses as their body loses strength. Vulnerability to pneumonia, aspirating food, urinary tract infections, and injuries from falls are noted risks. Your loved one may not be able to communicate pain or symptoms of an illness, side effects of medications, or follow a treatment plan.
Check back with us next week for Part III of our Alzheimer’s Series, focused on the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.