Putting your house key in the wrong place, calling your neighbor by the wrong name, or forgetting to buy something at the grocery store are all common memory lapses. But as you get older, forgetfulness occurs more and more frequently, and it's easy to start questioning what's normal -- like whether it's a sign of Alzheimer's disease.


Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, which is a term to describe the loss of cognitive functioning. Over time, Alzheimer's disease will lead to the inability to carry out daily activities, such as wearing clothes and communicating with someone. If someone you care about is experiencing signs of Alzheimer's, knowing the signs of each stage can help you assist in managing the disease.


Stage 1: Normal (before symptoms appear)

Mentally healthy people of all ages belong to this stage. The normal stage means that one’s cognitive ability of is very good. He or she is able to remember things from the past 5-10 years and is accurate in judging direction, location, date and time. Also, there are no communication difficulties and daily activities are normal.



Stage 2: Very mild cognitive impairment

This condition occurs among more than half of people aged 65 and is therefore considered a normal phenomenon of aging. A patient may feel that he or she has minor memory lapses, such as forgetting where objects are placed or other people's names. However, because it is an occasional mild cognitive problem, it is difficult for relatives or friends and medical staff to detect the symptoms of cognitive impairment.



Stage 3: Mild cognitive impairment

When entering stage 3, the patient will experience mild changes in communication skills, behaviors and social skills, such as: forgetting important appointments, declining organizational and planning skills, more difficulty in remembering other people's names and words, obstacles when going to unfamiliar places, repeated problems, and obvious anxiety, etc., but still able to deal with daily life, such as accounting, shopping, handling household chores. At this time, relatives and friends might begin to detect the change and send the patient to the hospital for a check-up. Some of the brain degeneration will stay at this stage, but most patients will degenerate further after 2 to 4 years.



Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline (Early stage of Alzheimer’s)

When entering the early stage of dementia, a patient is still able to change clothes, bathe or travel to familiar places. However, he or she will have obvious difficulties dealing with the more complex things in daily life, such as shopping, calculating finances, and difficulty remembering recent events, as well as social withdrawal, moodiness, and depression. One may even put the towels in the fridge. At this point, the disease has progressed to psychiatrist-diagnosable dementia that can be slowed down by taking clinically proven effective drugs.



Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline (Middle-stage of Alzheimer's)

The patient at this stage has lost the ability to live alone and needs help from others to take care of daily life. For example, the patient needs to be reminded to take a shower and turn off the stove. One may also become disoriented and forget their home address and phone number, but the patient still has the ability to dress and bathe by himself or herself.



Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline (Middle-stage to late-stage of Alzheimer's)

By this stage, the patient's personality will change significantly and may begin to forget about the spouse, siblings, parents, or children. The patient may have severe memory loss in thinking, reduced awareness of recent life, living in the past or non-reality, leading to paranoid, suspicious and repetitive compulsive behavior.

In behavior, the patients need much more focus when doing things or walking in small steps, so as not to get out of step, and can't take a bath by themselves because they can't adjust the water temperature and dry their body. There are even cases of inability to speak complete sentences and incontinence.



Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline (Late-stage of Alzheimer's)

For the final stage of brain degeneration, each patient will have different symptoms, because it is a problem with the brain function, so there is not much physical pain. Most of the patients will have lost language ability and mobility by this time, and become unconscious. In terms of language, communication is very limited, only using the words "yes" or "no", and even only childish whining or shouting and making sounds for no reason. In terms of behavior, due to the severe degeneration of the brain, it is impossible to recognize familiar people and things, even smiling, walking, sitting are problems, and even swallowing is in danger of suffocation.



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