What Are The First 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects memory, cognition, and daily functioning. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that around 850,000 people are currently living with dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form, constituting approximately two-thirds of cases. Each year, over 200,000 new cases are diagnosed, making it a prevalent and pressing concern for both individuals and their families.

Recognising the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s – forgetfulness, confusion, and altered behaviours – is crucial for timely intervention, but also for offering compassion and support to those embarking on this challenging journey. As the disease advances, these symptoms become more pronounced, leading to significant challenges in daily life. If you’re considering what the 7 stages of Alzheimer’s are, we have listed each stage below, alongside how you can best provide support at each stage.

At this initial stage, individuals exhibit no apparent cognitive decline. They navigate life independently, their memories intact, and cognitive functions unimpaired. It is a period of apparent normalcy, a time when individuals relish their autonomy. Alzheimer’s can be present for years with no diagnosis, as this first stage exhibits no clear symptoms.

For those supporting loved ones at this stage, fostering brain health through cognitive exercises and embracing a healthy lifestyle becomes crucial. This phase sets the foundation for what lies ahead, underscoring the importance of proactive measures for cognitive well-being.

The subtle start of cognitive decline emerges in the form of minor memory lapses during the early Alzheimer’s stages. Loved ones might dismiss these lapses as forgetfulness, attributing them to the natural course of ageing. However, those intimately involved may start recognising the subtle shifts. The ability to live independently will not be affected at this stage.

Establishing routines, engaging in mental activities, and maintaining regular medical check-ups are essential components of support during this stage.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, cognitive challenges become more apparent. Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating extend beyond personal awareness, becoming noticeable to friends and family. Repeating questions, forgetting information just given to them, and trouble creating plans are all signs of this increased cognitive decline.

To provide support at this stage it is key to maintain routines, employ memory aids, and offer unwavering emotional support, laying the groundwork for navigating the complexities of Alzheimer’s. Early medical intervention is important, a diagnosis at this stage will help in managing symptoms and enhancing the quality of life.

Signs that may have been previously subtle now become distinct, as cognitive decline worsens. This will directly impact daily activities, and new issues will appear. Handling finances, organising tasks, and managing a household will pose a challenge. Your loved one may begin to struggle understanding you, forgetting the date, and forgetting details about themselves. Help with everyday tasks will become necessary, and extra steps must be taken to ensure safety, for example ensuring your loved one is no longer driving themself.

Family members should look into caregiver support groups while adapting to their new roles in providing care to their loved one. You may also want to seek support for coping with Alzheimer’s or dementia behavioural changes.  

A turning point is reached as individuals require assistance with basic activities like dressing and grooming. Your loved one will no longer be able to understand what time it is, or where they are, demanding a heightened level of support.

Caregivers will become instrumental in providing round-the-clock assistance, implementing adaptive technologies, and creating an environment that safeguards dignity and makes every task easier to achieve. It is important to maintain a calm and reassuring attitude, particularly when your loved one repeats questions and becomes confused.

At this Alzheimer’s stage, professional care, such as moving your loved one into a care home, should be considered, as these services will become instrumental. They will be able to offer not just physical support but emotional reassurance.

At this later stage of Alzheimer’s, significant memory loss and difficulty recognising loved ones become clear markers of the disease’s progression. Your loved one may confuse you with someone else, and they may become caught up in delusions. Physically, they will need full-time assistance in going to the bathroom, eating, and dressing. They may also begin to struggle with walking, and become more susceptible to other health conditions such as infections and weight loss.

The challenge for caregivers lies not just in managing physical needs but also in cultivating meaningful connections through a compassionate approach to communication. Playing music, reminiscing with old photos, and sensory activities will enable communication and connection.

The final stage of Alzheimer’s marks a substantial transformation as communication becomes very difficult, and your loved one will rely entirely on others for their most basic needs – walking, sitting up, feeding themselves, and going to the bathroom. It is important to note that at this stage, they will not be able to know when they are thirsty, so maintaining proper hydration is crucial.

Our team of dedicated care professionals are committed to ensuring the highest quality of life for residents in our homes. We understand the importance of compassion, respect, and individualised care in managing Alzheimer’s Disease. All of our care is person-centred, as per our ‘Rose Model of Dementia Care’ which emphasises best practice through key principles, such as maintaining wellbeing and individuality.

If you or someone you know is dealing with Alzheimer’s and requires guidance or support, B&M Care is here to help. Our dementia specialists are available to provide assistance and information, ensuring that those affected by Alzheimer’s receive the care they deserve. We offer free educational events for the public, designed to educate you about dementia and how best to provide care.