The stages of Alzheimer's: From memory loss to cognitive dysfunction
The first sign of Alzheimer’s is memory problems, which is also called mild cognitive impairment or MCI. In this state, you would experience more memory issues than normal for your age, but they won't interfere with your everyday life.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s are different with each person. Some will experience a decline in non-memory cognition, like finding words, vision/spatial issues, and impaired judgment. Their memories, however, may still be intact.
Researchers have studied biomarkers or the biological signs of the disease found in the patient's cerebrospinal fluid, blood, and brain images, to detect early changes in those with MCI and those who are still cognitively normal. Early detection is possible, but more research is needed before tests point to Alzheimer’s.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, you may have more significant memory loss and other cognitive difficulties. You might begin to wander and not know where you are, have trouble paying bills and handling money, you repeat questions and take longer to complete daily tasks. Additionally, your personality and behavior will begin to change. This is when patients are diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer's disease.
Moderate Alzheimer’s disease brings on damage in areas of the brain that control language, sensory process, reasoning, and conscious thought. Memory loss and confusion usually begin to worsen in moderate Alzheimer's, and people start to have issues recognizing friends and family. They are unable to learn new things or multi-task, and it becomes difficult to cope with new situations. People at the moderate stage may begin to have delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations, and they may also have impulsive behavior.
Severe Alzheimer’s disease plaques and tangles are spread throughout the brain, and the brain tissue shrinks. Those who have severe Alzheimer’s are unable to communicate, and they can’t take care of themselves. They would be completely dependent on their caregiver, and might also be bedridden.