Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia experience a range of symptoms and experiences, not just the end stages of the disease that many times come to mind.
There is a general progression of symptoms related to Alzheimer’s including an early, middle, and late stage that can help provide individuals with an idea of what to expect. Although there are general symptoms and stages, it is important to note that each individual with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will have a unique journey. They may not experience all of the symptoms nor experience them in the same order.
The following list of stages can give insight to the progression of the conditions. The list is not intended to be all inclusive, only to give a general idea of the symptoms and stages.
Early Stage: Memory loss and forgetfulness are common early signals. An individual’s short-term memory is affected; therefore, they may forget recent events or repeat themselves, but remember details from past experiences. They may also have difficulties with communication including not being able to recall the word they want to use or having trouble keeping up in a conversation. Difficulties making decisions, showing proper judgment, recognizing objects, and trying new things may also be symptoms that occur during the progression in the early stage.
Middle Stage: In the middle stage, there may be an increased progression of the symptoms from the early stage including increased forgetfulness. Individuals may repeat themselves more often, they may be confused with time and place, have increased difficulty with language, and changes in mood and personality. Troubles with performing daily living tasks such as dressing, preparing and eating meals, toileting, and bathing may occur. These troubles may result in the need for more support from caregivers. Other symptoms can include not recognizing loved ones, hallucinations, and changes in visual perception.
Late Stage: An individual with Alzheimer’s eventually progresses into the late stage of the disease. In this stage an individual will become dependent on others to perform daily living tasks. Memory loss will become progressed, which may include not recognizing loved ones, objects, or surroundings. Other symptoms may include an inability to communicate verbally (non-verbal communication is very important), physical decline (trouble with walking and swallowing), loss of bladder control, and increased distress.
These stages and symptoms are overwhelming, but there are many things that caregivers, loved ones, and community members can do to support an individual living with Alzheimer’s. They can help instill the highest quality of life possible.
If you are impacted by dementia as an individual living with the condition, a family caregiver, or a loved one, take each day one step at a time and reach out for supports. For more information about resources and supports, contact the Aging & Disability Resource Center by calling 800-514-0066.