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Most people are not aware there are actually 7 stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.  The stages don’t always fall into neat boxes, and the symptoms might vary — but you can help support your loved one with Alzheimer’s by learning more about how the condition unfolds.

Stage 1: Normal Outward Behavior     Alzheimer’s disease usually starts silently, with brain changes that begin years before anyone notices a problem. When your loved one is in this early phase, they won’t have any symptoms that you can spot. Only a PET scan, (an imaging test that shows how the brain is working), can reveal whether they have Alzheimer’s.

Stage 2: Very Mild Changes    This could include forgetting words or misplacing objects. Subtle symptoms of Alzheimer’s don’t interfere with the ability to work or live independently.  Important Note: Keep in mind that   these symptoms might not be Alzheimer’s at all, but simply normal changes from aging.

Stage 3: Mild Decline   You start to notice changes in your loved one’s thinking and reasoning, such as forgetting something they just read; asking 

the same question over and over; having more difficulty making plans or organizing; and/or can’t remember names when meeting new people.

Stage 4: Moderate Decline   During this period, the problems in thinking and reasoning you noticed in stage 3 get more obvious, and new issues appear.  Your friend or family member might forget details about themselves; have trouble putting the right date and amount on a check;

have trouble cooking meals or ordering from a menu; not understanding what is said to them; and/or struggle with multiple tasks, (house cleaning). 

Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline    Your loved one might start to lose track of where they are and what time it is; may have trouble remembering their address and phone number; even become confused about what kind of clothes to wear for the day or season.

Stage 6: Severe Decline    As Alzheimer’s progresses, the individual may recognize faces – but forget names and mistake a person for someone else. Delusions might set in, such as thinking they need to go to work even though they no longer have a job.

At this stage, it might be a struggle to feed themselves, and get dressed.  Other possible symptoms are weight loss, skin infections, trouble walking, changes in sleeping patterns, or even pneumonia. 

Stage 7: Very Severe Decline    Many basic abilities such as eating, walking, and sitting up, fade during this period. 

WHAT CAN YOU DO to help your loved one, or a person you care about?

There are answers at every stage.  My recommendation is for you to listen to my Podcast interview with Dr. Kim G. Johnson, a Geriatric Psychiatrist, who heads a Duke Health-UNC Alzheimer’s Research Center.   You’ll be amazed at the advances which have been made in treating Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia – and the options available.  



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