Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disease, and it is considered to be the most common form of dementia. The three stages of Alzheimer's are mild, moderate, and severe. Each stage lasts for a certain period of time, and with each stage, symptoms generally worsen. Although much has been learned about this disease since its discovery, there is still no cure for it, and it is terminal. Common symptoms of Alzheimer's include confusion, memory problems, personality changes, and language difficulties.
The mild, or early, stage of Alzheimer's lasts for roughly two to four years, and it is during this stage that most patients are diagnosed with the disease. During this stage, a patient may become increasingly forgetful, and have trouble remembering newly acquired information and, possibly, repeat questions. Expressing thoughts and ideas often becomes difficult, as though the patient is at a loss for words. Some household tasks such as balancing the checkbook or organizing a closet may become nearly impossible.
Probably the most difficult things for family to deal with in the early stages of Alzheimer's are the personality changes of their loved one. A patient may become irritable, snapping at people for the littlest thing. Exercising poor judgment, losing things, and getting lost may begin to happen frequently during this stage. An Alzheimer's patient may also become less interested in hobbies and work, becoming more withdrawn.
During the moderate, or middle, stage of Alzheimer's disease, it often becomes clear that the patient's symptoms are becoming worse. This is the longest stage, usually lasting two to ten years. It is during this time that supervision typically becomes necessary. Memory problems worsen, often to the point that a patient may have trouble recognizing close friends and family. A patient may also have problems with reading and writing, and sometimes, will repeat statements.
Personality changes during moderate stages of Alzheimer's become more noticeable. A patient may begin to hear or see things that are not there and possibly become increasingly suspicious of the people around her. Occasional muscle twitches are not uncommon, and a patient may appear to be restless or fidgety.
Of the three stages of Alzheimer's disease, the worst is the severe, or late, stage. This stage is typically the shortest, lasting one to three years, on average. A patient is often unable to recognize her own family members, or sometime even herself, during the later stages of Alzheimer's. The ability to communicate with words may become extremely difficult or even impossible. Even with an adequate diet, and Alzheimer's patient may lose an unhealthy amount of weight.
Because patients are usually unable to take care of themselves properly, full-time care is often necessary during the later stages of Alzheimer's. Many Alzheimer's patients touch things and people constantly, and they may put things into their mouths. Incontinence is common, and they will need help bathing and dressing during the latter stages of Alzheimer's.