The phases of Alzheimer’s disease are often referred to as being mild, moderate, or severe. The mild stage lasts from two to four years, the moderate phase from two to ten years, and the severe stage from one to three years. However, Dr. Barry Reisberg expanded each phase using what he termed the Global Deterioration Scale. Here’s what you need to know about each stage of Alzheimer’s disease.
During the initial stages of Dr. Reisberg’s scale, seniors may simply experience mild forgetfulness or memory loss.
During second stage of the illness, the symptoms become more pronounced and occur more frequently compared to other adults of a similar age. Some of the symptoms include forgetting where items are located, the names of family members, and common words.
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The moderate phase begins and progresses over a two to four-year period, and the entire phase may extend up to seven years. However, only immediate family members or close friends are able to detect the changes. Symptoms include a decrease in reading comprehension, increased difficulty concentrating, and getting lost outdoors.
The fourth stage of Alzheimer’s may last approximately two years. Testing by a healthcare provider reveals cognitive deficits. Seniors might display unusual mood changes or become more withdrawn. Other symptoms include forgetting personal history, difficulty handling personal finances, and an inability to count back from 100 by subtracting sevens.
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The fifth stage is considered moderate to moderately severe, and it lasts approximately 18 months. During this time, seniors need increasing care and support, and they often exhibit anger or suspicion. Behavioral changes commonly occur during the late afternoon, which is referred to as sundowning. Older adults often are not aware of weather conditions and cannot remember their own address or major events.
The sixth stage is moderately severe, and it lasts about 2.5 years. Seniors commonly need help choosing clothes and getting dressed properly. They are no longer concerned with personal hygiene and need assistance adjusting water temperatures before bathing. It’s not uncommon for older adults to lose bladder and bowel control. The degree of memory loss is also more pronounced. Seniors aren’t aware of current events and may forget life events and confuse family members. They also cannot count backward by tens. Behavior issues become more apparent when they are confused or frustrated. Sleep patterns change, which leads to nighttime wandering.
The final and most severe stage of the disease lasts up to 18 months. As the last phase progresses, seniors often develop more physical disabilities. They may only be able to speak a handful of words if they speak at all and eventually lose the ability to sit up in a chair, walk, or feed themselves. The body stiffens as muscles and connective tissues harden and become shorter. The lack of physical movement puts them at a high risk of developing pneumonia.
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