It’s no secret how chronic memory issues and cognitive decline can seriously affect your day-to-day life. Unfortunately, this may be one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or a similar issue connected with the brain. But what exactly are the stages of Alzheimer’s? Is it possible to prevent dementia and improve brain health? Is it related to health and exercise? What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease? In this article, we will give you more information on prevention tips, typical progression through the different stages of Alzheimer’s, and signs of each stage.
One of the fears of getting older is potentially suffering from a cognitive disease like Alzheimer’s. The frightening thing is, many people don’t know they even have the disease in the early stages. With the right information, you can know what to look for in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and hopefully give yourself or a loved one more time to tackle the disease.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Before we talk about the stages of Alzheimer’s we should define WHAT Alzheimer’s is. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease. This means that nerve cells have fewer connections, which cause brain cell death. Over time, the loss of brain cells progresses causing memory loss and other abnormal brain dysfunctions.
While dementia and Alzheimer’s disease normally occur in older adults, anyone around the age of 35 can start to suffer from cognitive impairment and the risk factors need to be assessed. Even mild cognitive impairment can affect your daily life.
Below we’ll look at what symptoms show up in each of the stages of Alzheimer’s and highlight some of the telltale signs associated with this debilitating condition. From there, we’ll give you suggestions on how to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and improve brain health. Lastly, we’ll talk about some of the things we’re doing to halt and even reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease for our residents.
Why Learn About the Stages of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is hard on everyone involved. Knowing more about the stages of Alzheimer’s and the disease itself can help you:
- Understand possible prevention techniques
- Know how to help a loved one
- Spot possible symptoms of the disease
- Get medical attention early on
- Simply understand it better
Key Facts for All Alzheimer’s Stages
- Alzheimer’s can affect adults as young as age 35
- Interestingly, more women suffer from Alzheimer’s than men
- Some adults aged 85 and over suffer from Alzheimer’s
- Most people who suffer from severe cognitive decline don’t know they are suffering from Alzheimer’s
- It can affect your ability to speak
- Cognitive impairment can disrupt your ability to work and have a normal life
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia
- Heart disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure are closely related to the cause of Alzheimer’s
The 3 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease – Mild, Moderate, and Severe
Mild Early Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
Like many types of cognitive-related dysfunction, it can be difficult to identify the symptoms correctly. It can be hard to know whether to be worried, especially in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Here are some of the symptoms you may see in someone dealing with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory loss is probably one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s. Of course, it could simply be age-related memory loss and nothing really to worry about. However, you may find yourself becoming increasingly forgetful; even of information that you’ve recently learned. Not only that, but you may start forgetting important milestones and dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. During this phase, you may have to rely on family members for reminders regarding certain information.
People who experience early stages of Alzheimer’s may suffer from the following symptoms of memory loss:
- Misplacing items
- Difficulty recalling names or certain words
- Repeating questions
- Losing train of thought mid-sentence
- Difficulty learning something new
- Getting lost on familiar routes to the store, home or work
- Forgetting special events
- Repetitive conversations
Confusion Associated with a Time or Place
Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease might start to become confused. They may find themselves:
- Losing track of seasons, like not knowing whether it’s summer or winter
- Getting lost when driving to a familiar location
- Experiencing difficulties when managing the budget
- Needing help, even with the simplest of tasks like operating the microwave or switching on the air conditioner
- Forgetting where exactly they are at any given time
Increased Misplacement of Things
It’s not uncommon to forget where you placed something like your car keys every now and again. However, if it becomes a frequent occurrence, then it’s a cause for concern, especially if you can’t retrace your steps. Aside from constantly misplacing items, a person with Alzheimer’s disease is more likely to put things in the strangest of places. This can be a useful red flag.
Rapid changes in mood can also be an early warning sign; however, this can be caused by other mental illnesses, too, so never assume the worst. Instead, talk to your doctor about any of the following:
- Sudden mood swings
- Problems with depression
- Lack of interest in new activities
Mild Speech Problems
In some cases, Alzheimer’s can cause a mild speech impediment such as:
- Slower speech
- Mild stuttering
- Talking incoherently
Moderate Middle Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
At the moderate Alzheimer’s stages, people start to show more severe signs of change in behavioral patterns. These are characterized by different mood swings, poor judgment, changes in humor, and apathy.
Impaired Reasoning Skills
Again, we’ll point out that it’s okay to experience episodes of indecisiveness from time to time. The increased frequency of such scenarios is when it becomes something to worry about.
Alzheimer’s patients may not be able to take part in any major decision making as their reasoning skills begin to deteriorate:
- Lack of understanding of safety
- Inability to manage their finances
- Rash decision making
- Inability to plan activities or follow a routine
Facing Challenges When Solving Problems and Completing Tasks
Closely linked to memory loss, is the sudden inability to plan or solve problems – particularly of issues you’ve once handled yourself in the past. These situations can include any of the following:
- Failure to follow a set plan regarding how you conduct your day’s activities. Planning mat start to be conducted in a disorderly or haphazard manner
- Suddenly facing challenges when working with numbers
- Forgetting a family recipe that that was previously very easy
- In severe cases, forgetting to keep track of monthly obligations like payment of bills
- General difficulty in concentrating
Moderate Inability to Read or Write
Moderate warning signs include problems with the ability to read and write. This can also include the following:
- Difficulty remembering basic words
- Spelling errors
- More prone to scribble
- Ability to hold a pen or pencil becomes more difficult
Severe Late Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
An Alzheimer’s patient will show major changes in their personality during the later stages of Alzheimer’s. The symptoms from the first and second stages have worsened over time & result in the inability to care for oneself.
Is your loved one suddenly forgetting familiar faces like a close friend or even a family member? In the late stages of Alzheimer’s, their visual impairment won’t only be restricted to identifying individuals. They may also experience difficulty in the following scenarios:
- Determining different colors
- Experience problems when driving
Visuospatial perception is the human ability to understand spatial reasoning through visual observation. Alzheimer’s sufferers will start to show a deficit in this area such as:
- The inability to recognize familiar faces
- Not able to recognize certain objects
- Severe alexia or the inability to read texts
Problems with Speaking or Writing
Anyone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease often has problems holding a conversation. They either stop in the middle of a conversation or find themselves repeating information. Often, the abrupt stop during a conversation is because they simply have no idea how to continue. Inability to follow through a conversation may also be because of a difficulty finding the right word to use. They may even start calling things by the wrong names.
Late stages of Alzheimer’s include the inability to communicate effectively:
- Conversing is difficult
- Lack of understanding of what is being spoken about
- Not able to express sentences correctly
- Speaking incoherently
Lack of Motor Skills
Alzheimer’s causes a major change in motor skills and patients may not be able to do basic activities:
- Inability to walk
- Difficulty writing
- Problems with picking up light objects
- Unable to feed oneself
- Difficulty getting in and out of bed
- Loss of the ability to keep one’s head up
- May not be able to swallow food and beverages correctly
- Unable to hold objects for extended periods of time
Other Major Symptoms
There are other areas of Alzheimer’s disease that affect cognitive performance with the most common being the complete deterioration of the brain. At this point, the patient is now more prone to other diseases. Some major late-stage symptoms include the following:
- Prone to the flu or pneumonia
- Erratic sleeping patterns
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of awareness
- Hostile and aggressive behavior
- Wandering around aimlessly
- Repetitive behavior
4 Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
After looking at the 3 stages of Alzheimer’s, the question is whether or not there is a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have found that incorporating healthy habits in your daily routine and lifestyle can greatly minimize the onset of this condition, as we’ll discuss below.
Physical activity is a great way to helps reduce the risk of the disease by up to 50% and slow down the progression.
You don’t have to go overboard with the exercise. In fact, dedicating just 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic exercises at least three times a week is often good enough.
It’s time to ditch the junk food. Why not try eating a healthier and more balanced diet or even a plant-based diet and other foods, as well as a reduction in fats? Recent studies have shown that eating a Mediterranean diet to be exact can greatly prevent the onset of the disease or slow down the symptoms. Not only that, cutting out things like trans fats will help reduce the risk of other diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease Include more fruits and vegetables, not forgetting whole grains & olive oil.
Foods you must avoid or at least eat in moderation include:
- Red wine
- Red meat
Get Enough Sleep
If you’re a workaholic and spend most of your nights at the office, it’s time for a change. According to our research, getting enough sleep is known to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. An average of seven to eight hours of sleep each night is enough to help reduce the risk of getting this debilitating condition.
Forget being an introvert, it’s time to get out more. The list of healthy activities proven effective in how to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s is endless; from learning new hobbies to playing a sport. You can also go out with friends more frequently, go shopping, play chess…anything to connect more socially. You’ll surely reap the rewards.
Now that you know more about the stages of Alzheimer’s and what you can do to help prevent it, are you willing to take the first step toward a healthier lifestyle? With the ideas we’ve just discussed you can take steps on your own to decrease your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease. And of course, always consult with your doctor before making any drastic changes!
And if you have a loved one that has already shown symptoms of one of the stages of Alzheimer’s, know that there is still much you can do. From visiting a neurologist to finding treatment options, Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Though there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are ways that you can prolong the stages of Alzheimer’s and treatment options available to you.
Avista Senior Living is home to the Enhance Protocol, the first Alzheimer’s treatment program designed for senior living. For more information on how we are trying to help our residents with Alzheimer’s, visit the Enhance Protocol page at Avistaseniorliving.com/Enhance.