Stages & Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Elderly Woman and Daughter
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. There may be no early symptoms, but the symptoms progress and become more noticeable and obvious over time (possibly years). Though many older people normally experience memory impairment as they age, the decline in cognitive functions in people with Alzheimer’s disease is more severe. Their abilities to handle daily tasks and social functioning are affected. This condition is best recognized early on its course, as it ensures that proper treatment and caregiving can be made. In addition, it allows for practical arrangements to be made for patients to live well in everyday life, despite the onset of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s.

Many Alzheimer’s disease patients use medical alert systems at home and outside, so we felt that sharing information about the condition will be relevant to our readers here.

How Medical Alert Systems Can Help

Medical alert systems allow seniors to easily call for help whenever they face emergencies. By pressing on a help button that is worn around the wrist or a lanyard, they can reach a medical alert monitoring agent who can get them the help they need. In earlier stages of Alzheimer’s disease, patients can still lead very active and independent lives. However, they may face increasing difficulties in remembering where things are and keeping organized. They may also start to experience a poorer sense of balance.

All these can increase the dangers of falling down, or becoming hurt in unexpected ways. The presence of a medical alert button is reassuring for both the patients and their loved ones, as they know that help is just a click away. Seniors who go out to shop or run errands often could benefit from a mobile alert monitoring solution like the Great Call alert button with GPS.

For more information, see the How Medical Alert Systems Can Help Alzheimer’s & Dementia Patients and 5 Helpful Medical Alert Systems For Alzheimer’s Patientsarticles.

Diagnosis

To diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and to totally distinguish it from the normal course of aging, the physician must be able to recognize the stages and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Experts say that in order to say that a patient has this disease, two of the following conditions must be present: impairment in memory, disturbance in visual perception, impairment of communication involving both language and comprehension, and the loss of the ability to concentrate on matters at hand.

The course of Alzheimer’s disease is slow and progressive, which means that you may not be able to recognize this condition until it’s already late. Alzheimer’s disease comes in stages and its symptoms worsen as the stages progress.

7 Stages Of Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 7 stages of symptoms for the condition. On average, it takes about 8 to 10 years to progress from an affirmative medical diagnosis to the final stages. The time frame can be much longer depending on individual circumstances.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to classify a person in a particular stage because the symptoms are progressive, as a patient may experience some symptoms but not others that have been generalized for a particular stage. Use the stages framework as guideline to understand how the disease will progress, what to lookout for, and what to be careful about.

Stage 1 – No Cognitive Impairment

Stage 1 is where everything appears normal. It’s a period that can persist for years or even decades. Mild memory lapses that may be confused with normal lapses begins to appear in stage 2.

Stage 2 – Very Mild Cognitive Impairment

As Stage 2 kicks in, symptoms start to manifest through occasions where the senior cannot remember certain familiar terms or information from everyday circumstances, such as forgetting where the car keys are normally placed. At Stage 2, the symptoms are still mild enough that an affirmative medical diagnosis is not quite possible.

However, new brain scanning technologies can pinpoint traces of amyloid beta deposits. Studies have tied the presence of amyloid beta plaques to Alzheimer’s disease. This will pave the way for earlier diagnosis, even before the senior patient exhibits symptoms of Alzheimer’s cognitive decline.

It is also important to note patients with higher concentrations of amyloid beta plaques, an indicator of Alzheimer’s, exhibit a higher level of difficulties with balance. In short, it means that patients with Alzheimer’s have a higher risk of falling. This is where a medical alert system can be helpful.

Stage 3 – Early-Stage Alzheimer’s – Mild Decline

With Stage 3, the patient may start having difficulties remembering the names of new people he or she meets. The patient’s organizational skills may also become affected; such as difficulties in planning a dinner party. If the patient is still working, he or she may experience difficulties in handling normal tasks they have had no problems doing in the past.

Some cases of Alzheimer’s disease can already be diagnosed at this point, but not always.

Stage 4 – Between Early to Mid-Stage Alzheimer’s – Moderate Decline

Stage 4 is the stage where cognitive decline becomes more evident. It is also called Mild Alzheimer’s disease. At this stage, the patient loses his ability to concentrate and perform simple mathematical processes, which is most usually assessed by a test called the serial 7s. This test instructs the patient to subtract 7 backwards from 100. This test is not solely used for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it is used to assess concentration, which is one of the criteria for its diagnosis.

The impairment in social functioning becomes more pronounced at this stage. One may begin to notice that the patient is becoming more sullen and more easily irritable than you’ve known them to be. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease become apparent and in most cases can be confirmed through a medical diagnosis.

Up till stage 4 and most of stage 5, Alzheimer’s patients can still do plenty of activities they have been used to doing. Having a good daily plan and friendly social interactions can be helpful. A medical alert system can help the senior continue on with an independent lifestyle.

Stage 5 – Mid-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease – Moderately Severe Decline

As the disease develops to Stage 5, the patients experience greater disorientation in everyday activities. The patient starts to become disoriented about their location and the time of the day. The patient may not remember his home address and have difficulty navigating around in areas that they have frequented. Though there is already great decline in some cognitive functions, the person still is able to engage in personal hygienic practices.

Stage 6 – Mid to Late-Stage Alzheimer’s disease – Severe Decline

At Stage 6, more acute Alzheimer related cognitive decline manifests through symptoms like forgetting the names of their spouses, getting lost when going out for a walk close by, frequent insomnia, and difficulties in using the toilet. Aside from memory impairment, the person may also experience anxiety and demonstrate acute personality changes. They may even become suspicious and delusional.

In stage 6, the use of home medical alarm systems could be a benefit for in-home healthcare caregivers. The unpredictable behavior of Alzheimer’s patients can sometimes be too overwhelming for the in-home caregiver to address on their own. With a medical alert button, they can call for help quickly.

Stage 7 Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease – Very Severe Decline

In late stage Alzheimer’s, the patient will probably need help with their daily activities, such as using the bathroom or eating. They may have difficulty controlling their muscles and reflexes, leading to slurring speech patterns, difficulties in swallowing and being unable to hold up one’s head.

Unfortunately, the physical impairment experienced can result in life-threatening injuries. For example, the difficulties in swallowing can lead to food particles or drinks entering the lungs. This can lead to an infection and pneumonia. Falling down and getting hurt is also another major threat the looms around.

For additional tips on caregiving to Alzheimer’s patients, check out the Alzheimer’s Association website.

The hypothesis that exercise can help to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease has been examined in different studies. Here is an article that summarizes some of these studies: Studies Show that Exercise Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

For an introduction to medical alert systems, check out the Introduction To Monitored Medical Alert Systems guide.

For a quick look at medical alert systems that are helpful for Alzheimer patients, check out the list of 5 Helpful Medical Alert Systems For Alzheimer’s Patients.

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