The Three Main Stages Of Alzheimer's Disease
The first stage is the early or mild stage. Onset of the
disease occurs at this stage and it may be four or more years until a diagnosis
of alzheimer's disease is established. Changes in memory, thinking, and behavior
are usually gradual at this stage. Many persons appear almost normal. However,
the affected patient usually knows that he or she has problems with memory and
thinking. Often, patients try to compensate for problems and hide their illness
from other family members. Denial may be a problem. Patients usually are still
able to work and drive a car successfully at this stage. The initial symptom
seen in more than 60% of patients prior to diagnosis is memory loss. Later on in
this stage, memory problems can lead to problems at work ,where co-workers may
notice subtle changes in the patient's job performance. During the early stage,
patients become careless in their appearance. They begin to lose interest in
hobbies and friends.They become apathetic. Some people become depressed, angry,
and frustrated , probably because they cannot remember or do things the way they
used to. There are not many physical changes in the affected person at the mild
stage. Motor movements, such as walking, may begin to slow. Some patients begin
to show weight loss, despite eating normally. Still other patients become
hyperphagic, and eat more food than normal.
The second or moderate stage of
alzheimer's disease is the longest of all the stages. This stage may last from 3
to 10 years. Symptoms of the disease become so apparent at this stage, that
diagnosis is usually made at this stage. Problems with short term memory become
especially severe. In addition, patients lose their ability to concentrate and
think. They forget appointments. They may have problems telling the time from a
clock, balancing checkbooks, counting money,or be unable to do grocery shopping.
At this stage, patients become agitated and frustrated. Some patients wander.
Others get day and night confused,and,thus , sleep during the day and wander at
night(This is referred to as sundown syndrome). Patients become increasingly
forgetful of personal hygiene,such as bathing and brushing teeth. Patients
develop hallucinations and delusions at this stage. Some patients forget where
they put things and claim that others have stolen their lost items. Some
patients lose the ability to recognize friends, family, or self at this stage.
On a "good" day, they may recognize you, but on a "bad" day, they may not know
you at all. Some patients become unable to recognize who they are in a mirror.
Patients lose the ability to drive early in this stage. However, many continue
to drive and they have increasing numbers of motor vehicle crashes, since they
cannot recognize common signs ,such as stop signs. Many patients cannot find
their way home, even if walking. Toward the end of this stage, declines in
thinking, memory, and activities of daily living(such as
dressing,bathing,walking) become greatly impaired. The third or severe stage may
last one to three years. In this stage, patients become severely-dependent upon
others to help them. They lose the ability to speak and to recognize friends and
family. In this stage,many patients become very inactive. They don't walk, talk,
or move. There is little emotional expression. Many become bedridden. Weight
loss is quite common. Patients become incontinent and need total care for even
simple needs. Many patients develop skin ulcers because they are immobile,
bedridden, and malnourished. Patients become very prone to falls and infection.
Hip fractures are a frequent complication of falls. Most patients die from
sepsis or pneumonia.