If someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, then you've probably already begun to experience the devastation that this condition wreaks upon the lives of sufferers and their families. It's a degenerative mental disorder, which leaves the patient frustrated and confused about simple things like recognizing a family member. Let's take a look at the progress of Alzheimer's, so that you can recognize the stages in your loved one and be prepared for what's to come.
Alzheimer's progresses through seven recognized stages, beginning with Stage I and moving through to the most severe manifestation of the disease in Stage VII. For many people, they do not even know they're experiencing Stage I, it can be so minor. Usually the person does not notice any mental decline, and can usually pass any of the cognitive tests usually employed to determine if Alzheimer's is present. In Stage II, some of the early aspects of memory loss begin to appear. Generally, though, this only manifests as a slight level of forgetfulness, and sometimes it takes the person longer to think of the right phrase or word. Sometimes friends and family may joke about the small hesitations, but do not need to connect them with Alzheimer's.
By Stage III, loved ones usually start to notice that the patient is having a lot more trouble concentrating and remembering things. Often the patient will forget the names of people they've just met, and a decline in their performance at work is often observed. They may struggle to retain information straight after reading it. They lose their planning ability, and often start losing personal possessions. Clinically, Stage III is usually the first time Alzheimer's can be diagnosed with some certainty.
In Stage IV, the patient's ability to think and reason properly has clearly become inconsistent. Thinking exercises that should be simpler are found to be extremely difficult, and sometimes chunks of their past disappear from their memory. Often, patients start to become withdrawn, as they became confused by a lack of understanding of what's going on in their life and in the world generally.
Stage V is defined by cognitive processes that are recognized as having a moderately severe decline. The ability to reason properly has often disappeared, and the patient will generally have large gaps in their memory. If you ask them their name or address, they may well have forgotten such critical information. Common sense is another thing that begins to disappear, so they will dress in summer clothing even though it's snowing outside. This is because of their severely reduced capacity for reason.
The patient's personality is often markedly different by the time they reach Stage VI of Alzheimer's disease. This is often one of the hardest stages to deal with, because the patient may still be at home and yet have forgotten everything about what's happened to them or where they are. Often they can not dress themselves or perform ordinary everyday activities, and sometimes incontinence developments. The patient regularly forgers the names of their loved ones, but generally still show signs of recognition when they see familiar faces. It's also the stage at which patients tend to wander off, because they do not know where they are or why. By this stage it's often necessary for the patient to receive either temporary or permanent care outside the home.
Stage VII is the final stage of Alzheimer's disease, and it is the most disabling for the patient. Muscle functions decrease, to the point where they may not be able to move, struggling to sit down without help. They may struggle to speak properly, and lose the ability to control themselves.
Alzheimer's is really a terrible disease, and it can be heartbreaking to watch someone you love progress through the various stages without any signs of improvement. However it's important to understand how if you will affect your loved one, so that you can be aware of important changes and support your loved one through them all.