Dementia is a general term for the decline in mental abilities in older adults. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, causing 60-80% of cases. The disease progresses slowly, and while symptoms vary from person to person, it can generally be divided into three stages: mild, moderate and severe.
A person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may find it difficult to perform everyday tasks. In the later stages, they will have to completely rely on others. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that may slow the progression and manage the symptoms. Knowing what to expect in each stage is helpful for caregivers as they make plans to meet the needs of an older adult in the months and years ahead.
Stage 1: Mild
During this stage, a person is able to live independently, socialize, drive and work, although it may become increasingly difficult to live their life the same way they did before symptoms began.
• Forgetting familiar words and names
• Losing everyday objects
• Getting lost on a familiar route
• Increased difficulty with planning and organizing
Stage 2: Moderate
During this stage, a person may become increasingly angry and frustrated by their limitations. Patients need help completing everyday tasks including handling finances, shopping and preparing food.
• Forgetting events or personal history
• Trouble paying bills
• Difficulty remembering basic information such as their address or schools they attended
• Experiencing confusion about where they are or what day it is
• Personality changes including suspiciousness, compulsive behavior and moodiness
Stage 3: Severe
During this stage, a person may not recognize family or friends and have difficulty communicating. Round-the-clock care is needed to keep patients safe.
• Limited speech
• Minimal change in facial expression
• Inability to control body movements including walking, sitting up and swallowing
• Inability to respond to their environment
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, working with your doctor to use exercise, diet, music and other forms of therapy, counseling, and medications to treat the symptoms can make day-to-day life more manageable for patients and their families living with the disease.