image of women with confused look

Recognizing these signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and dementia is essential to more effective treatment, so the earlier you see them, the better.

If you have an aging family member, for example a grandparent or even perhaps one of your own parents, you may already have some experience recognizing the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Then again, you may be seeing them play out in real time right in front of you, but they’ve come on so gradually that you haven’t put it all together just yet. You see, depending on how long someone has had this most common form of dementia, its signs and symptoms can range from barely noticeable to heartbreakingly evident.

A Guide to The 3 General Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

While there is also a widely accepted and more detailed “7 Stages of Alzheimer’s disease” model (known as the Reisberg Scale), for this article we’re going to use the more generalized 3-stage model.

Stage One – Early/Mild

This stage may last two to four years and is accompanied by the inability to recall recent occurrences, apathy, depression, increased sleep, and mood swings. They also may ask the same question more than once or experience some confusion when driving or during a conversation with more than one person at a time, but can usually take care of themselves on a day-to-day basis.

Stage Two – Middle/Moderate

Lasting from two to ten years, this phase is marked by obvious issues with memory, mood, and also physical capabilities. Inability to recognize friends and family and an increased need for assistance with daily needs are almost certain during this time.

Stage Three – Late/Severe

The last of these three stages of Alzheimer’s disease may last anywhere from one to five years, and is often characterized by virtually 24 hour care, severe lack of mobility, complete loss of memory and speech, and inability to swallow food.

As we age it’s not uncommon (and perfectly normal) to be just a bit forgetful every now and then, so the earliest red flags are understandably overlooked. What’s important is to remain attentive to the frequency and severity of the events, as early diagnosis can be key for more effective treatment. Don’t hesitate to see your care provider if you have any questions or concerns regarding your own or a loved ones occasional lapses in memory.