(from Alzheimer’s Association)
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from three to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions.
Stage 1: No impairment (normal function)
Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline (may be normal age-related changes or earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease) The person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses — forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. But no symptoms can be detected during a medical examination or by friends, family or co-workers.
Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline (early-stage Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed in some, but not all, individuals with these symptoms) Friends, family or co-workers begin to notice difficulties. During a detailed medical interview, doctors may be able to detect problems in memory or concentration. Common stage 3 difficulties include:
- Noticeable problems coming up with the right word or name
- Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
- Having noticeably greater difficulty performing tasks in social or work settings Forgetting material that one has just read
- Losing or misplacing a valuable object
- Increasing trouble with planning or organizing
Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline (Mild or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease) At this point, a careful medical interview should be able to detect clear-cut problems in several areas:
- Forgetfulness of recent events
- Impaired ability to perform challenging mental arithmetic —for example, counting backward from 100 by 7s
- Greater difficulty performing complex tasks, such as planning dinner for guests, paying bills or managing finances
- Forgetfulness about one’s own personal history
- Becoming moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations