What Are The Stages Of Alzheimer's Disease?

You’ve probably done it yourself, more times than you care to count; forgetting what it was that you walked into the room to get.  Or how about all those times when you’ve set your keys down for just a moment and, for the life of you, you just can’t find them?  You could have sworn that you set them down there, right in plain sight, and yet they seem to have vanished into thin air.  It can be insufferably frustrating, angering you until you want to scream (not to mention making you late) and, other times, it can be almost frightening and confusing when it happens, making you feel as if you’re acting stupid or, worse yet, losing your mind.

In most cases, we see these common mental slips and think nothing of them.  At times, the brain just doesn’t seem to want to engage when you ask it a question like, “What are six times three?”  Not only is it a natural happening throughout life, but we also attribute it to old age - as time goes by, you tend to get a bit more forgetful.  “Seniors tend to be somewhat absent-minded,” some might say and, for the most part, it’s true.  Most people, who suffer brief lapses in memory or thought, are not suffering from Alzheimer’s disease but, for a select few, these very subtle signals can be just the tip of the iceberg.

Alzheimer’s disease can be much like a cat, stalking a mouse.  At first, its approach is barely noticeable and easily overlooked; victims suffer minor memory lapses, where they forget details of recent events, twist things around or, sometimes forget names, faces, or directions.  Math and spelling may cause the occasional pause but, generally, these ‘spells’ are short-lived in those who are in the first stages of Alzheimer’s.    Making things even more difficult is the fact that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have no specific test that can be given to reveal their presence.  In fact, the only way that a doctor can be 100% on a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, to date, is for an autopsy to be performed on the patient, after s/he has passed away.  While a doctor may suspect or speculate that the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s disease, he can never be 100% sure of this.  There is no test that may be performed, that will diagnose this condition.

As the condition progresses, the patient becomes more confused and their forgetfulness now begins to interfere with their daily activities and routines.  The person suffering from the second stages of Alzheimer’s disease may forget to brush his teeth or will leave the house without brushing his hair.  Sometimes, it can be more drastic, like the person trying to walk out of the house without clothing or heading out into the snow in their bare feet.

Quite often, it is at this stage when the patient will begin to lose substantial memories, such as not recognizing loved ones.  Suddenly finding themselves in strange surroundings, one can only imagine how frightening it must seem, having a stranger come up and try to insist that they are your son or daughter and trying to touch you.  Naturally, it comes as little surprise that Alzheimer’s patients, at this stage of the dementia, are also prone to becoming anxious or aggressive and, if left unattended, will commonly wander from where they are supposed to be.

Sadly, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, nor is there any way of reversing its effects on those who fall victim to it.  Believed to stem from a disruption in the nerve cells and chemical transmitters in the brain, this condition will continue until the patient not only loses the memories of friend and family, but also memories of learning how to talk, walk, use the restroom, and so on.  In time, they have no other option than having to have full time, and total, care.

In the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the patient has usually lost their ability to communicate and has forgotten simple things that we take for granted, like how to swallow or the ability to breathe.  While people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have been known to live for 20 years after being diagnosed with it, the average amount of remaining time is usually about 8 years.  Watching a loved one slip away over several years can be devastating to a family and crushing for loved ones.  The fourth most common cause of death amongst our elderly, Alzheimer’s is a serious condition and researchers continue to study it, in hopes of finding ways to beat it.