The Stages of Alzheimer's

It can be devastating to watch a loved one’s condition decline due to Alzheimer’s, but it’s important to know the signs as they progress so you’re prepared for the future and know when to ask for help. Learn more about the various stages of the disease in this guide.
The Stages of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease typically progresses slowly, and in three stages: early, middle and late (in medical contexts, these are sometimes referred to as mild, moderate and severe).

Learn more about each stage below.

What is Preclinical Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease begins long before any symptoms become obvious. This is referred to as the preclinical Alzheimer's disease stage, and it’s typically identified in research settings. Currently, there are ongoing trials looking at whether treating people with Preclinical Alzheimer’s will delay or slow the onset of symptoms, and new imaging techniques, genetic tests and markers are playing an important role in the development of treatments for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

If you’re worried about Alzheimer’s, genetic tests can tell you if you’re at a higher risk of the disease. Speak to your healthcare provider for more information.

Early-stage (mild)

This is when Alzheimer’s disease is often diagnosed. Here, it becomes clear to family and doctors that symptoms are affecting their loved one’s daily functioning.

Some symptoms people may experience during this stage include:

  • Memory loss (particularly in relation to recent events).
  • Struggling to learn and remember new information (and they might ask the same questions multiple times despite being provided with an answer).
  • Finding problem-solving challenging.
  • Issues with making sound judgements.
  • Doing everyday tasks they never used to struggle with might become hard (like planning a family member’s birthday or organising a dinner with friends).
  • Changes in their personality (ie. They can become withdrawn and quieter in social settings, or angry when they ordinarily wouldn't be).
  • Losing important belongings, or just generally forgetting and misplacing things.

Middle-stage (moderate)

Things start getting a little more serious at this stage, and you’ll often notice the individual will start to become even more confused than before. This can mean they easily lose track of where they are, what they’re doing, who they’re with (they can forget family members or confuse them with strangers), and they might not know what day or time it is.

Other symptoms someone might experience at this stage can include:

  • Wandering around and getting lost in typically familiar places.
  • Forgetting details about themselves and their personal history (family, medical, everything).
  • Needing help with activities they can usually complete themselves, such as choosing appropriate clothing for an occasion, booking in personal grooming like haircuts, or going to the toilet.
  • Becoming suspicious of family and friends, and accusing them of stealing from them, having an affair, or being nasty behind their back.
  • Growing restless or annoyed, especially as the sun begins to set.
  • Becoming physically aggressive for no apparent reason.

Late-stage (severe)

In late-stage Alzheimer’s, mental function can continue to drastically decline which not only has an impact on cognitive function, but movement and physical abilities, too.

Individuals might experience:

  • An inability to communicate or converse in sensical ways. They might struggle to say anything at all, only communicating via random words or phrases.
  • A need for daily care as they are no longer able to look after themselves (and they might not even be able to walk to the other side of a room without assistance).
  • Muscle soreness and rigidity, and their reflexes might also be abnormal. Eventually, a loss of bladder and bowel control can occur.

The importance of capacity when signing a Will

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’d know just how important it is to write a Will and elect an enduring power of attorney while you have the full capacity to do so. Wills can be contested in the future if beneficiaries believe you weren’t of sound mind (or were unduly influenced) when writing it.

Write Your Will Online and Support the Alzheimer's Research Australia. A gift in your Will to Alzheimer’s Research Australia will help create a future that improves the lives of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and enables future generations to enjoy life to the fullest as they age.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, medical, accounting or tax advice.

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