Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia among the elderly population, and it is a progressive disease. Initially the symptoms are mild, but with time the symptoms get worse. For instance, during the early stages of the disease, the patient will have trouble recalling things that happened a few minutes or hours ago, or putting their thoughts into words; However, as the disease progresses this worsens. In the later stages of the disease, the patients can’t often look after themselves; they need someone to help them. They are no longer capable of living an independent life during the severe stage of the disease.
Dementia in Alzheimer’s disease develops over the course of a many years, but the speed at which it develops varies pretty dramatically from four years in some patients and 20 years in others.
Alzheimer’s disease contains three main phases, which includes the mild, moderate, and the severe stages. It is important to remember that there are no clear cut or well-defined stages, and many of these stages can overlap. Each stage shows different signs and symptoms.
The first stage: Mild
This stage often lasts for about two to seven years.
The symptoms of this stage include:
- Trouble remembering recent events or information.
- Forgetting a word or misplacing things.
- Trouble with retrieving words.
- Trouble remembering things what was just said or read.
- Mild coordination problems like trouble writing or using objects they were familiar with.
- Having a hard time with their daily tasks such as following a recipe.
- Mood swings.
- Finds it difficult to carry out tasks especially ones with sequences such as cooking and driving.
However, the patients are usually able to recognize their family and friends during this stage of the disease.
It is very difficult though to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at this very early stage. Relatives and friends often think these features are due to their old age.
The second stage: Moderate
In this stage, the symptoms begin to become more drastic and patients often require assistance.
The symptoms include:
- Forgetting addresses and telephone numbers.
- Disoriented very easily regarding time or place.
- Decision and judgement skills get affected like choosing the appropriate clothes for the day or season.
- Cannot carry on a conversation
During this stage, the patient may need increased supervision. This stage can last an average up to 10 years. Some people with moderate Alzheimer’s disease become aware about their condition, which makes them more frustrated.
The third stage: Severe
In this stage:
- There is a significant lack of awareness in present events.
- They are unable to remember the past.
- Cannot express themselves
- Extreme mood swings.
- Needs help with daily tasks such as dressing and going to the wash room.
- Speech is severely limited.
- Movement abilities also become limited — sitting, eating, walking, and standing up all start to fail.
During this stage, patients need extensive assistance around the clock for daily functions. They are also more susceptible to infections such as pneumonia. This stage often lasts for about one to two and a half years.
Simply forgetting a name or telephone number does not mean you have Alzheimer’s. However, if you feel you have these symptoms or one of your relatives has these symptoms, talk to your doctor.