Alzheimer's disease is a type of irreversible, progressive brain disease that attacks and destroys the brain's cells, which results in a loss of memory and other essential cognitive functions. The neurodegenerative disease is responsible for causing up to sixty percent of dementia cases. Contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer's disease should not be considered a normal part of aging as approximately two hundred thousand people under the age of sixty-five have been diagnosed in the United States alone. Symptoms of the disease worsen over the years and are eventually terminal. Here are the seven stages.
Stage One: No Impaired Behavior
A patient usually does not exhibit symptoms of memory loss or other cognitive impairments during stage one of Alzheimer's disease. The only way the disease can be detected during this stage is by a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which is an imaging test that studies how well the brain is working. As the disease progresses into other stages, a patient will experience more changes in their reasoning or thinking.
Stage Two: Very Mild Impairment
Patients with stage two Alzheimer's disease still may not show symptoms, or they may exhibit very mild cognitive impairment. In most cases, memory loss associated with this stage is difficult to differentiate from the symptoms of normal aging. A patient with stage two Alzheimer's disease may still do well on memory tests, and symptoms are unlikely to be picked up by medical professionals yet. Stage two is characterized by small changes that do not interfere with a patient's ability to live on their own.
Stage Three: Mild Decline
By stage three, a patient's medical doctors and family members may begin to notice memory and cognitive impairments. The three most common areas affected during stage three Alzheimer's disease are planning and organizing, finding the right word to describe feelings during a conversation, and remembering names of new places or people. A patient with stage three may finally show signs of Alzheimer's disease on memory and cognitive tests. During this stage, it is common to lose personal possessions such as keys, money, and other valuables.
Stage Four: Moderate Impairment
During stage four Alzheimer's disease, the symptoms that began to arise in stage three start to get worse. A patient will often forget important details about themselves, forget what month or time of year it is, have trouble locating the date on a calendar or perform simple math equations, and can no longer order from a menu or cook for themselves. It is recommended that patients in stage four no longer drive and are protected from being taken advantage of financially.
Stage Five: Moderately Severe Impairment
During stage five, patients often experience significant confusion resulting in the inability to get dressed or recall simple details like their phone number. They may still maintain a moderate amount of functionality and can usually bathe and use the restroom by themselves unassisted. They may also still recall the names of family members and details about their past, such as their youth and childhood. A person with stage five Alzheimer's disease may repeat themselves or ask the same questions over and over again.
Stage Six: Severe Impairment
Stage six Alzheimer's disease is characterized by confusion or being unaware of a patient's surroundings or environment, extreme personality changes and behavioral problems, the inability to recognize faces except for very close friends and relatives, loss of bladder and bowel control, and wandering. A person in stage six will need to be supervised regularly and requires the help of professional care. He or she will need assistance with going to the bathroom, bathing, eating, and other daily activities.
Stage Seven: Very Severe Decline
The final stage of Alzheimer's disease may be warranted by the inability to swallow, the need for assistance in all life activities, and the failure to speak anything except a few words or phrases. A patient in this stage is considered near death as Alzheimer's disease is a terminal illness. The patient is not aware of their surroundings and can no longer tell when they are hungry or thirsty. They may require complete assistance with eating, walking, and using the bathroom. Patients with stage seven may no longer be able to recognize their loved ones.
Early Warning Signs To Be Aware Of
As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's disease affects a patient's memory, cognitive abilities, and bodily functions that heavily affects their daily lives. The common warning signs of early onset Alzheimer's, which are seen at the different stages, include memory loss, difficulty planning and solving problems, trouble completing familiar or routine tasks, and issues determining the time and place of where they are. Other symptoms to be aware of are difficulty finding the right words and speech issues, misplacing items often around the home, making decisions can be challenging, withdrawn from work and social events, significant personality and mood changes, and not taking care of their physical hygiene and appearance as often.
Although Alzheimer's disease isn't an expected part of the aging process, many individuals are at an increased risk as they age. Typically, adults over the age of eighty-five have a fifty percent chance of developing this neurological disease. Patients who also have a family history of the condition, especially if a parent, sibling, or child has the disease, and if more than one family member has it, the risk significantly increases. Researchers have discovered rare genes that may directly cause or contribute to Alzheimer's, and these genes can be carried from one generation to the next within a family. As a result, adults under the age of sixty-five may develop symptoms much earlier than expected, however, these genes account for less than five percent of all Alzheimer's diagnoses. Other risk factors to be aware of include a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, depression, and cognitive and physical inactivity. By knowing the risk factors, individuals can hopefully prevent this disease from happening to them or a loved one.