According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one out of every nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease. That means that there is a good chance someone you know and love is currently living with Alzheimer’s or will develop symptoms of the disease at some point in your life. To help prepare you, the elder law attorneys at Wilcox Attorneys, PA explain how to recognize the stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease Simplified
Although there is nothing simple about Alzheimer’s disease, it helps to break down the disease into a simplified explanation that everyone can understand. The National Institute on Aging explains Alzheimer’s disease as “a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults with symptoms typically beginning in a person’s 60s. Scientists are not yet confident about what causes Alzheimer’s and there is currently no cure for the disease.
Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
Only a qualified physician can diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s disease; however, it helps to educate yourself about the stages of the disease so that you can recognize symptoms and/or help care for a loved one who develops Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease typically progresses through the following stages:
- Stage One. Changes occur in the brain before symptoms appear. Often called “pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease,” these changes begin 10 to 15 years before symptoms show.
- Stage Two. Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s are often indistinguishable from normal age-related forgetfulness. Forgetting names and dates or losing the keys are common examples of symptoms at this stage. While this type of memory lapse can be part of the normal aging process, the lapses will become more frequent and more pronounced in an Alzheimer’s sufferer.
- Stage Three. Symptoms become noticeable and it becomes harder to blame them on normal aging. Recently learned information may be forgotten. Planning and organization suffers and social or work settings become challenging. People are often diagnosed during this stage.
- Stage Four. At this stage, Alzheimer’s symptoms move beyond slight memory loss. Damage to the brain can also result in difficulty with language, organization, and calculations. Memory loss will become more significant with the individual remembering more distant events better than recent events. Personality changes and moodiness are also more prevalent, and medication may be required to help reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. At this stage, which can last for several years, an Alzheimer’s sufferer is at risk of wandering off and getting lost and may require some supervision.
- Stage five. Memory loss at this stage becomes even more pronounced. Remembering even close family members or friends may be difficult if not impossible at times. Basic tasks, such as getting dressed or bathing, can cause frustration and confusion. Delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations may occur. Close supervision is necessary at this stage.
- Stage Six. Managing daily tasks becomes impossible and it is now unsafe for the individual to live alone. Alzheimer’s has also now made it difficult for the individual to communicate, meaning they may not be able to express their needs or feelings. Personality changes continue to occur and frustration and anxiety increase.
- Stage Seven. In the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the individual’s brain cells have been severely altered, causing physical and mental impairment. The person’s physical body starts shutting down and the mind cannot effectively communicate with the body.
Contact Our Elder Law Attorneys
For additional information, please sign up for one of our FREE estate planning webinars. If you have additional questions or concerns about how to recognize the stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other elder law questions, contact the experienced Washington County, Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, and Northwest Arkansas elder law attorneys at Wilcox Attorneys, PA by calling 479-443-0062 to schedule your appointment today.