The most common cause of Dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which is caused by a loss of brain cells.

People living with Alzheimer’s disease will usually suffer from some form of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease can also cause problems in completing daily activities especially if any sort of organisation or planning is required, such as going out for grocery shopping. Alzheimer’s disease can cause difficulties when handling money or understanding and dealing with numbers and calculations.

Those with Alzheimer’s disease may become upset or agitated in unfamiliar environments as this can cause confusion for them and this can cause them to become very withdrawn and lonely.

Alzheimer’s disease usually progresses slowly and is typically categorised into three stages:

  • Early (Mild)
  • Middle (Moderate)
  • Late (Severe).

Typically, an individual living with Alzheimer’s disease will live for between four and eight years after their diagnosis but this be 20 years or longer and will differ among individuals, how quickly (or soon) they are diagnosed and will be influenced by many other factors too.

Below we set out some indications of each of the three stages of Alzheimer’s disease although some of these could overlap and are just indications, these will vary between individuals as every experience with Dementia and Alzheimer’s is different…

Early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease (Mild)

During the Early Stage of Alzheiemer’s Disease, an individual is likely to still be able to function and live independently, they may still be able to drive and engage in social activities.

However, the individual will show some signs of memory lapse and may begin to forget familiar works, locations and everyday objects. Although, the symptoms may not be significant at this stage they will be noticeable to family and close friends, these will also be identifiable by a doctor.

Common indicators at the Early Stage of Alzheiemer’s Disease include:

  • difficulty remembering the right name or word for a familiar object;
  • difficulty remembering the names of new people;
  • losing or misplacing objects;
  • Trouble planning and organizing;
  • difficulty performing tasks

Middle Stage Alzheimer’s Disease (Moderate)

The Middle Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease is usually the longest stage and as this progresses the individual will require a greater level of care and support.

During the Middle Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease, the symptoms will become more obvious and prominent, the individual is likely to confuse words and may become angry or frustrated, the individual may also develop tendencies and behavior’s that are somewhat ‘out of character’ and different to their usual or previous behavior’s and character. Expressing thoughts and performing routine tasks may also become difficult as damage occurs to the nerve cells in the brain.

Common indicators at the Middle Stage of Alzheiemer’s Disease include:

  • confusion over day and time;
  • forgetting events and memories;
  • being withdrawn from social engagement;
  • being unable to recall their personal information (address / telephone number / previous jobs, schools etc.)
  • difficulty controlling toileting;
  • changes to sleeping patterns;
  • becoming lost or walking with purpose (wandering);
  • Personality and behavioral changes

During this stage it is not unusual to get caught up in what the individual has lost and what they are unable to do, however…it is so important to look at what they can still do, what they enjoy and what, even with some assistance, they can still do for themselves or to improve their quality of living.

Late Stage Alzheimer’s Disease (Severe)

The Late Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease is where the symptoms are most severe and individuals will often lose their ability to respond to their situation, circumstances and environment, will be unable to engage in usual conversation and will lack the ability to control their own movements. Communication, during the Late Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease becomes very difficult and although some words and phrases may be possible, the individual’s cognitive skills will become progressively worse and personality and behavioral changes will be significant. The level of care required at the Late Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease will be extensive and specialized.

Common indicators at the Late Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease include:

  • difficulty communicating;
  • vulnerability to infections;
  • need for 24-hour assistance and help with personal care;
  • loss of awareness  of surroundings;
  • Difficulties with moving, walking and swallowing

Although communication by the individual with Alzheimer’s Disease will become progressively more difficult during the Late Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease, they can still benefit from interaction and engaging in activities and socializing that are tailored to their abilities and needs.

As outlined at the beginning, each individual’s journey with Dementia will be very different and the above symptoms and indicators are exactly that…indicators, each individual will experience these differently and may not experience all of these and some worse than others, there is no ‘one route’ where Dementia is involved.