Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

One of the popular diagnostic framework’s for understanding Alzheimer’s disease are the seven stages outlining the progression of the disease.  Although the stages provide a general blueprint for the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms, everyone progresses through the stages differently.  Family members and caregivers often say that their loved ones seem to be in two or more stages at once, and the rate at which people advance through the stages is highly unique.  However, understanding the stages of Alzheimer’s helps us be aware of Alzheimer’s symptoms and enables us to prepare for their accompanying challenges.

  1. Alzheimer’s Stage 1: No cognitive impairment – Absence of Impairment
    There are no problems with memory, orientation, judgment, communication, or daily activities. The individual is a normally functioning adult.
  2. Alzheimer’s Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline – Minimal Impairment
    During stage 2 of Alzheimer’s disease, the individual might start experiencing some lapses in memory or other cognitive problems, but family and friends are not yet able to detect any changes. In fact, a medical exam would most likely not reveal any problems either.
  3. Alzheimer’s Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline – Noticeable Cognitive Decline
    It is during the third stage of Alzheimer’s disease when family and friends may begin to recognize slight changes in behavior, memory, and communication.  If the individual were to visit a doctor, the doctor might be able to give a diagnosis of mild Alzheimer’s disease as well.  During stage 3, an individual may have trouble remembering people’s names and/or the right words for particular objects.  He or she may start having difficulty on the job or in social settings.  The individual may become very forgetful and frequently misplace things.
  4. Alzheimer’s Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline – Early-State/Mild Alzheimer’s
    The cognitive decline of an individual with Alzheimer’s stage 4 is starting to become more evident. The individual may become forgetful of important, recent events or even basic, personal details. There may also be impaired mathematical ability, a declining ability to complete complex tasks, moodiness, and social withdrawal.
  5. Alzheimer’s Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline – Middle-Stage/Moderate Alzheimer’s
    During stage 5 of Alzheimer’s disease, the individual will most likely need help with the daily tasks of life.  The individual’s struggle with memory becomes more noticeable, such as forgetting one’s address or important details in their lives.  Often times, individuals with stage 5 Alzheimer’s become disoriented and start neglecting basic hygiene and personal care.
  6. Alzheimer’s Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline – Middle-Stage/Moderate to Late-Stage/Severe Alzheimer’s
    Stage 6 of Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by major changes in personality and behavior.  This stage can be the most challenging for family members and caregivers because the individual’s memory continues to decline, and assistance is required for most daily activities. At this stage, individuals become easily agitated, are confused about their surroundings, may easily become lost, have problems identifying close family members, and may begin suffering from incontinence.
  7. Alzheimer’s Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline – Late-stage/Severe Alzheimer’s
    The most severe stage of Alzheimer’s is when it is no longer possible for an individual to properly respond to his/her surroundings. The individual may only be able to communicate with short words and phrases – or may not be able to speak at all.  The individual can no longer function on a basic level.  At this point, the individual requires complete care.