The 3 Stages of Alzheimer’s

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November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. It’s also a time when families get together after not seeing one another for a long time. Adult children may arrive home for the holidays and wonder if their aging parent is starting to show signs of Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

Only a doctor can effectively diagnose which stage a person may be experiencing, but here is a basic outline of the three stages of Alzheimer’s:

Stage 1: Mild Alzheimer’s (Early Stage)

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, friends and family may start to notice their loved one experiencing difficulty remembering things such as familiar words or the location of everyday objects.

Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty finding the right word for something
  • Forgetting something they just read
  • Not remembering names of people they were just introduced to
  • Difficulty performing routine tasks at work or socially
  • Losing or misplacing objects
  • Trouble planning or organizing

What can caregivers do at this stage? Since the individual is still independent at this stage, a caregiver’s’ role can be to provide support and companionship. The person with Alzheimer’s may need help with things like:

  • Appointments
  • Managing finances
  • Remembering names or words
  • Transportation
  • Planning and organizing
  • Keeping track of medication

It’s important to allow the person to maintain their independence as much as possible and keep communication open for when they do need assistance.

Stage 2: Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease (Middle Stage)

This is usually the longest stage and individuals can stay in this stage for several years. As the disease progresses, the need and level of care will become greater. People at this stage may start to confuse words, get angry or frustrated or act out in unexpected ways.

Symptoms will be more noticeable and include:

  • Forgetting information such as their own address or telephone number
  • Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Forgetting events about their own life
  • Being confused on what day it is or where they are
  • Needing assistance picking out clothes that are appropriate for the season or occasion
  • Urinary and bowel incontinence
  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions

What can caregivers do at this stage? Individuals at this stage will require a greater level of care. The person with Alzheimer’s may become frustrated and upset when they have difficulty remembering things and names or trouble with daily activities such as getting dressed. You will most likely have to adjust your daily routine to include more structure for the individual with Alzheimer’s. At this stage caregivers can:

  • Use a calm voice when responding to questions to help the person from getting upset or frustrated
  • Respond to the person’s emotion, instead of the question asked; the individual may need reassurance
  • If the individual can still read, write out reminders for them

Practice patience and sensitivity with patients in this stage. They may become increasingly upset or frustrated as they lose more brain function as well as their independence.

Stage 3: Severe Alzheimer’s Disease (Late Stage)

In the final stage of Alzheimer’s, personality changes may occur and individuals need increasing help with daily activities. They may still use words or phrases, but communicating emotion becomes difficult.

Symptoms and behaviors at this stage may include:

Changes in physical abilities, including the ability to walk, sit and swallow

Needing assistance with daily personal care

Not knowing their surroundings or recalling recent experiences

Increasingly difficulty communicating

Vulnerability to infections, particularly pneumonia

What can caregivers do at this stage? Intensive, around-the-clock care is usually required at this stage and can last from several weeks to several years. The role of the caregiver is to preserve the quality of life and dignity for the individual. People in this stage will need help with most activities including eating, dressing, and even walking. At this stage, the world is mainly experienced through the senses. Caregivers can connect and help an individual by:

  • Playing his or her favorite music
  • Reading excerpts of their favorite books
  • Looking at old photos with them
  • Preparing a favorite meal
  • Brushing the person’s hair
  • Sitting outside together

Although an individual in this stage is unable to communicate, research shows that some core of their self may still remain. Caregivers and loved ones may be able to connect on some level even in this stage of the disease.

You can visit for information about finding a doctor and preparing for the appointment. If you find you are in need of extra help for your loved one, contact Assisting Hands Home Care serving Columbus, OH – many of our caregivers are trained and experienced in caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Get the compassionate, reliable care you need – give us a call today.


Sources: ClearCare;