Stages of Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's disease is a brain disease where brain cells progressively degenerate. Alzheimer's disease typically follows certain stages which will bring about changes in the person's and family's lives. Because the disease affects each individual differently, the symptoms, the order in which they appear, and the duration of each stage vary from person to person. In most cases, the disease progresses slowly, and the symptoms of each stage may overlap, often making the move from one stage to another quite subtle.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease nor can its progression be reversed. Present treatment options and lifestyle choices, however, can often significantly slow the progression of the disease.
The term “early stage” refers to individuals of any age who have mild impairment due to symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Common symptoms include forgetfulness, communication difficulties, and changes in mood and behaviour. People in this stage retain many of their functional capabilities and require minimal assistance. They may have insight into their changing abilities, and, therefore, can inform others of their experience of living with the disease and help to plan and direct their future care.
To learn more, read our early stage information sheet.
This stage brings a greater decline in the person’s cognitive and functional abilities. Memory and other cognitive abilities will continue to deteriorate although people at this stage may still have some awareness of their condition. Assistance with many daily tasks, such as shopping, homemaking, dressing, bathing and toileting will eventually become necessary. With increasing need to provide care, everyone involved will need help and support.
To learn more, read our middle stage information sheet.
The late stage of Alzheimer’s disease may also be called “severe” or “advanced” stage. In this stage, the person eventually becomes unable to communicate verbally or look after themselves. Care is required 24 hours a day. The goal of care at this stage is to continue to support the person to ensure the highest quality of life possible.
To learn more, read our late stage information sheet.
People in the final months of dementia will experience increased mental and physical deterioration and eventually need care for 24 hours per day. The progressive nature of dementia means symptoms will ultimately worsen over time. How quickly this occurs varies from person to person.
When the person nears death, comfort measures become the focus. As in the care of any person living with a terminal illness, physical as well as emotional and spiritual needs must be carefully considered and attended to, focusing on quality of life and comfort.
To learn more, visit our section on End of life care.
Last Updated: 09/11/12