There are many different types of dementia, but Alzheimer’s is the most common: the disease accounts for between 50% and 80% of all diagnosed cases of dementia. Alzheimer’s tends to be associated with old people and the vast majority of patients who develop the disease are aged 65 and over, but it can also affect younger patients. So if your relative or friend has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, what is the dementia timeline for deterioration?
Research into Alzheimer’s has shown that there are seven distinct stages in the progression of the disease, although symptoms will vary between different patients and some people will deteriorate faster than others.
Dementia timeline for deterioration:
Stage 1 – Normal Function: No symptoms of memory loss and no evidence of any type of dementia present.
Stage 2 – Very Mild Cognitive Decline: the patient may be concerned about mild symptoms of memory loss, but relatives and medical professionals can see no obvious symptoms of dementia during an examination or interview.
Stage 3 – Mild Cognitive Decline: symptoms of Alzheimer’s are now becoming more obvious to other people in contact with the patient. Typical symptoms evident in stage 3 Alzheimer’s include problems remembering names of people and objects, short term memory issues and losing belongings, difficulties with organization and planning tasks or performing social or work related tasks.
Stage 4 – Moderate Cognitive Decline: this is the first stage that is definitively classed as early-stage Alzheimer’s. Symptoms detected will include short term memory loss, problems performing complex tasks and challenging mental arithmetic, forgetfulness, and changes in personality.
Stage 5 – Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline: this is classed as the mid-stage Alzheimer’s and patients will now show symptoms such as large gaps in memory and greater levels of confusion. They will also be less able to perform easier feats of mental arithmetic, but will still be capable of using the toilet and eating without assistance, although they might need help with some tasks.
Stage 6 – Severe Cognitive Decline: this is still classed as mid-stage Alzheimer’s. Patients will now need a great deal of help taking care of everyday tasks and memory problems will have worsened. Patients may have problems sleeping at night and lose control of their bladder or bowels. Behavioral problems including paranoia and delusions might be evident by this stage and patients are likely to need constant supervision for their own safety.
Stage 7- Very Severe Cognitive Decline: this is classed as late stage Alzheimer’s and is the final stage of the disease. By now, patients have lost all ability to respond to their environment. They will require assistance with all aspects of their daily care and will probably be confined to bed.
By the time a patient is in the final stage of Alzheimer’s, the quality of their life is greatly impaired, they often have difficulty swallowing and eating, and they are far more vulnerable to infections. The last stage can last for several years, although many patients succumb to secondary infections quickly, and at this stage in the disease, the only real focus is to make the patient comfortable and treat them with as much compassion and dignity as possible.