Seven stages of Alzheimer's disease: What to you need to know.

The seven stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD) were outlined by Barry Reisberg, M.D. Knowing the stages can provide a framework for you to interpret your family member's behavior and skills.

Of course, each person with AD progresses as an individual and may have symptoms from the different stages at the same time. Each stage builds on the next with impairment becoming more obvious and more severe.

Not all Alzheimer's disease sufferers live through all seven stages as they may have other illnesses that cause death before AD Stage 7.

AD Stage 1: No Impairment

AD Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Impairment
At this stage of Alzheimer's disease it is almost impossible to determine if the person is experience normal age related changes in memory or the earliest signs of AD.

AD Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Impairment
This is the first of the stages of Alzheimer's disease where family and friends start noticing memory changes in their loved one. Memory testing by a doctor or memory clinic may also reveal changes.

Common issues that the person experiences are trouble retrieving the right word or a person's name. Problems with short term memory become more common such as not remembering the name of someone you just met and misplacing valuable items.

If the person is still working, he may have trouble with job performance. His ability to plan and organize is affected. Not all individuals diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop AD.

AD Stage 4: Moderate Cognitive Decline:
At this stage, changes to the person's ability to think, remember and reason are obvious to anyone who spends some time with him. Performing daily tasks such as balancing a check book or preparing a meal that require multiple steps becomes very difficult.

Memory testing by a doctor will clearly show an impairment as the person demonstrates a lack of awareness of current events and recent personal events such as what he had for lunch.

His personality may change as he becomes withdrawn and quiet expecially in social situations.

AD Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline:
Changes to your family member's abilities to think and remember are obvious. He needs supervision and support to succesfully complete day-to-day activities such as dressing and bathing.

He may not be aware of what day it is or what year it is and is now experiencing gaps when trying to recall pesonal information such as his address or phone number.

He likely still remembers family members and their names.

AD Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Decline: In Stage 6, your family member will need help with all activities of daily living. He will need prompting to remember to use the bathroom. His personality may change significantly by showing signs of suspicion, hallucinating or engaging in repetive behavior. His sleep may be disrupted. He may wander away from home and become lost.

AD Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline:
Stage 7 is the last of the stages of Alzheimer's disease and is marked by a need for almost total care. Your family member can lose the ability to speak recognizable speech, to feed and dress himself. He will become incontinent.

Brain damage can become so severe that your family member will lose the ability to walk and to sit upright in a chair with support. Muscles become rigid. Swallowing is impaired.

Extensive brain damage can cause your family member to be bedridden, enter a coma and die. Consequences of damage to the brain such as pneumonia caused by aspirating food into the lungs can also result in death.

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