Stages of Alzheimer's Disease - And Stage Symptoms

Early, Moderate, Severe AD

Doctors classify the progression of Alzheimer’s in stages. It’s a disease that creeps up on a person very slowly, starting with very vague symptoms which could be put down to old age and ending with a person needing complete care and eventually dying.

Alzheimer’s can last anything between three and ten years, depending on a person’s age and state of health at the time of diagnosis. The average duration of the disease is about eight years. During this time, people with the disease are expected to go through three stages which are referred to either as mild, moderate or severe Alzheimer’s or early, middle and advanced phases.

Each stage is linked to the progressive degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain (which causes Alzheimer’s) and how that affects a person both physically and mentally.

Early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease

At the very start of the illness, the changes in a person are very subtle and can be put down to general old age. Usually the person with Alzheimer’s doesn’t realise they are becoming forgetful or slightly confused and sometimes it’s only really close family members who realise that there may be a problem.

Usual symptoms of the early stage include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Not being able to find the right words for things
  • Not being able to remember where things were left
  • Reduced ability to plan, organise and manage finances and household tasks
  • Forgetting to eat or drink

Not everyone will have these symptoms and at this stage they may not be very obvious.

Stage - Moderate Alzheimer’s

As the disease progresses the symptoms become more frequent and severe. Certainly the problems will become more obvious to people around the person with Alzheimer’s and, at this stage, to the sufferer themselves. Their long term memory is likely to still be in tact but in the short term forgetfulness is quite prominent.

Usual symptoms at this stage include:

  • Behavioural changes such as problems sleeping; lack of concern for appearance and hygiene; lack of concern for others.
  • Personality changes: restlessness, paranoia, jealousy, fear, anger or extreme sadness
  • Becoming withdrawn: not wanting to go out
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Lack of judgement
  • Difficulty recognising people and everyday objects
  • Needing help with dressing, going to the toilet or washing.

Stage - Severe Alzheimer’s

In the advance stage a person will go downhill very rapidly. They won’t be able to speak, control movement or be aware of their surroundings. They will not be able to respond to anything or anyone.

Usual symptoms at this stage include:

  • Inability to speak coherently although they may utter the odd recognisable word
  • Very easily confused and disorientated
  • Completely unaware of their surroundings
  • Problems walking. A person will begin to shuffle and need help getting around
  • Problems sitting without support, smiling or holding their heads up
  • Incontinence
  • Complete lack of emotions
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Pain as the muscles seize up because the brain cells which usually transmit movement signals degenerate
  • Agitation, aggression and severe mood changes
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour.


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