Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia in the world today. A progressive deterioration of the brain, AD most commonly affects adults in middle to late life. While the cause of AD is unknown, treatment is geared toward maintaining the highest quality of life for the AD patient as possible. There are generally three stages of AD: early, middle and late. Each stage has characteristics that are unique and will help you be able to identify the stage of AD your loved one/patient is in.
Stage 1 - Early AD
- Short term memory loss. People in this early stage generally forget where they put things or even the name of the object they lost. Now, this does not mean that just because you forgot where you put your car keys that you have AD, however it is something to look for and consider when forgetfulness increases or becomes habitual.
People in early stages of AD frequently attempt to "hide" or cover up the aforementioned memory loss.
They may have a hard time concentrating.
Stage 2- Middle AD
- The person with AD is unable to remember the names of their family members.
You may notice that they appear lost in locations that are familiar to them (such as their own home or their town).
They may have difficultly using familiar objects, such as using a pen or pencil to write their name.
You may notice they have lost the ability to read or speak, or they have trouble keeping up with conversation.
You may also notice their personal hygiene habits take a downward spiral.
The AD person may also exhibit something called "sundowning" where they are up and pacing and are more agitated in the afternoon and evening hours.
Stage 3 - Late AD
- During late AD, the person will not know who he is.
They will be unable to recognize others that were originally familiar to them. This includes spouses, family members, friends, etc.
The late AD person eventually forgets how to do everything...this includes eating, swallowing, bathing, walking, going to the bathroom, and will have frequent periods of bowel and bladder incontinence.
Eventually, the late AD person will be bedridden and will have total dependence on the caregiver.
Prognosis for persons with AD is not promising, however, recognizing the signs of each stage can help with early intervention of symptoms, and help maintain a high quality of life for the AD person's remaining years.