The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of Dementia which slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Here are 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease you shouldn’t ignore.

Alzheimer’s disease progresses in stages, and is often broken down into 3 stages, early, middle, and late. There is an alternate staging system called the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) which was developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg.  

What Are the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?

  • Stage 1: Pre-clinical
  • Stage 2: Basic forgetfulness
  • Stage 3: Noticeable memory problems
  • Stage 4: Major memory loss
  • Stage 5: Decreased independence
  • Stage 6: Severe symptoms
  • Stage 7: Decreased or inability to control bodily functions

This staging system might not line up completely with every person’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease. Let’s look at these stages in more detail:

Stage 1: No cognitive decline
In this stage, there are no complaints of memory problems and no evidence of cognitive deficits upon examination.

Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline, age-associated memory impairment
There are subjective reports of memory problems, like misplacing objects or forgetting names. There is no evidence of memory issues during a clinical interview or problems with work or with social situations.

Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment
This stage is when cognitive deficits start to become apparent. A person might get lost going somewhere new, coworkers might notice a decline in performance or the person might read something and not comprehend it.

When clinically tested, the person’s concentration may be impaired and memory issues might be noticeable in an interview. An individual might find it harder to keep up with a demanding job and start to have some denial about memory issues. There is also often some mild to moderate anxiety about the deficits.

Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline
In this stage, there is a lowered awareness of current events, there may be a memory deficit of personal history, and trouble with traveling or handling personal finances. Denial is typically stronger at this point, and there is often a flattening of affect (reduced expression of emotions) and withdrawal from situations that are challenging.

Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline
At this point, a person cannot survive without some kind of assistance. During an interview, a person might not know a major piece of current information about themselves, like their address or names of close family members.

Major life event information, however, is still intact. There is often a lack of orientation to time, place, or date. While a person in this stage does not usually need help toileting or eating, choosing what to wear might require assistance.

Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline
In this stage, a person with Alzheimer’s might forget a spouse’s name and are mostly unaware of current events or events and surroundings around them. Counting to 10 and counting backward from 10 may require assistance. Activities of daily living may require assistance, and incontinence may occur. Sleep habits are often disrupted at this stage. A person usually still knows their own name and can differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar people around them.

Personality and behavior changes start to happen during this stage and can include delusions, hallucinations, anxiety and agitation, obsessive behavior, and a loss of will.

Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline
At this point, the individual begins to lose their speech and may just have guttural sounds. Toileting and feeding require assistance, and the ability to walk begins to decline.

There is a marked disconnect between the body and the brain in this stage, and the individual has a general rigidity to them.

How Neighbors Who Care Can Help

We inspire a robust network of volunteers who respond to the ever-changing needs of our aging community, helping them live at home with pride, dignity and independence. Our dedicated volunteers provide assistance in the areas of transportation, shopping/errands, grocery van transport, friendly visitation, reassurance calling, minor home repairs, business assistance, dinner delivery, and caregiver relief/respite. 

If you are caring for someone with memory loss, please give us a call to find out how we can help.
📞 480-895-7133

For support groups in our area, check out our resources page. 

Alzheimer’s Association 24-Hour Helpline. They provide information, offer referrals and support for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Got a question? Give them a call! 📞 800-272-3900.