Navigating the Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
There are seven stages of Alzheimer’s. Navigating the Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease is not easy. You see, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. Alzheimer’s is sneaky as the disease affects each person differently.
The progression usually occurs in seven stages. However, one person might go through a couple of stages in a relatively short period of time. Another person goes through each separate stage for years.
To help you understand the stages, I am going to tell you a story about seven fictional individuals with Alzheimer’s. Even though these characters are fictional, their experiences are based on real life events.
Are you ready to navigate the seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease? Let’s go.
Stage One: Joe’s Story
Meet Joe. Joe is an active 63 year old man. Joes works long hours as an accountant at a small firm.
Joe is a hard worker. Lately though, Joe has been forgetting things. Joe forgets to call people back. Sometimes Joe forgets to complete a task. Joe even forgets date night with Jane, his wife, on a regular basis.
Jane wonders what is happening to her husband. Joe used to be so prompt and task oriented. “Maybe it’s stress? After all, Joe works long hours.”
Joe’s forgetfulness and mistakes could be the result of stress. I know I do not always think right when I am under stress.
However, in Joe’s case, he is unfortunately entering the first stage of Alzheimer’s disease. This stage has few signs or symptoms. People make mistakes. They start having trouble remembering things. All of these symptoms can be explained away by stress or simple mistakes. However, these could also be symptoms of stage one Alzheimer’s disease.
Stage Two: Jane’s story
Meet Jane. Jane is a sixty two year old woman. Jane loves to go shopping and out to eat. However, Jane frequently can’t find her keys when it is time to leave. Jane also forgets the names of people and places. Sometimes Jane even can’t remember how to get to the mall.
“What is happening to me?” Jane wonders. “I used to be great at trivia and now I have trouble recalling certain words when talking to people.”
We all forget or misplace things at times. These are not necessarily signs of Alzheimer’s disease. But in Jane’s case, she is in stage two. However, her doctor has not yet diagnosed her.
Why not? You see, in stage two, it is more common to lose your train of thought or forget things. Like Jane, people in stage two are prone to losing their keys or other personal items. Maybe they forget to lock the door when they leave home. Or, they might experience slight memory impairment. All of a sudden, they have trouble thinking of the right words to use when speaking.
These symptoms are noticeable. But, they are also easily explained away. After all, who hasn’t misplaced their keys?
Stage Three: Bill’s Story
Meet Bill. Bill is a seventy year old former teacher. Bill loves to read. He is fascinated by the latest technology. However, Bill is experiencing some issues.
Susan calls Bill and asks him where he is. Bill goes “I’m at home. Why?” “You’re supposed to be picking me up for our neighbor’s wedding,” Susan explains. Yep, Bill had forgotten all about the wedding plans.
Then, the other day, Bill returned home to find he had left his radio blaring. Needless to say, his neighbors were not happy. Bill apologized saying “I thought I had shut the radio off before I left.”
The other day, I asked Bill how old his grandson was. Bill had to think for awhile before telling me his grandson was seven.
You see, Bill is in stage three of Alzheimer’s disease. This is the stage where the disease is either detected or suspected by friends and relatives. In this stage, you start having vocabulary and word choice issues. One also has short term memory recall and consistently keeps forgetting or misplacing items.
Stage Four: Ann’s Story
Meet Ann. Ann is a former secretary. Ann always pays her bills on times and is very good with money. Until a few months ago that is.
Ann started forgetting to pay her bills. The utility companies shut off her lights. Ann’s son, Mark, kept calling the companies to get his mom’s bills and late fees paid.
While visiting Ann, Mark began noticing that Ann’s house was messy. Mark became concerned. You see, Ann had always been a very tidy person. Ann’s house was always clean and no dust bunnies were ever found. Yet now, dirty dishes piled up in the sink and layers of dust gathered on the end tables.
You see, Ann is stage four of Alzheimer’s disease. In this stage, a person develops moderate impairment. Now, a person may have trouble keeping up with their finances. Bills go unpaid. Normal household chores go undone. Sometimes, people like Ann are unable to tell their loved ones what they did earlier in the day!
At this stage, family members, like Mark, need to usually start taking on caregiving roles. Usually a doctor has already diagnosed the person with Alzheimer’s disease at this stage.
Stage 5: Brian’s Story
Meet Brian. Brian is a happy go lucky man. He married Judy, the love of his life. He raised two wonderfully successful children. Brian was always smiling. Until now that is.
Now, Brian gets angry very quickly. Brian is also easily confused. He has trouble remembering his own children’s names at times. Sometimes he even forgets to eat or get dressed. Judy recently found Brian still in his pajamas after returning from a girl’s day out at 3:00 p.m. When Judy asked Brian what he had eaten that day, Brian exploded at Judy. Turns out, Brian forgot to eat while Judy was away. Brian kept insisting it was only 9:00 a.m., not 3:00 p.m.
Brian unfortunately is in Sage 5 of Alzheimer’s disease. Judy has become his caregiver. Judy helps Brian bathe and get dressed. She makes sure Brian eats regular meals.
Judy is very sad because sometimes Brian doesn’t even recognize her when she enters the room. Other times, Brian will ask her when their kids are coming home from school. These are the same kids who are now grown adults. But, Brian often regresses to an earlier age where he thinks has young children at home. The other day, he asked Judy when her dad was coming to visit even though Judy’s dad died three years ago.
Stage 6: Jennifer’s Story
Meet Jennifer. Up until two years ago, Jennifer lived at home with Frank, her husband. However, Frank can no longer manage Jennifer’s care.
You see, Jennifer keeps wandering out of the house and getting lost. Jennifer cannot remember where she was going nor where she lives when stopped by a caring individual. Sometimes, Jennifer cannot even remember her name or her marriage to Frank. Heartbreakingly, Jennifer sometimes denies having children when her adult children come to visit her. She sometimes confuses her grandchildren with her children.
Jennifer is also experiencing incontinence issues. Her mood swings are legendary. One minute, Jennifer is her sweet demure self. The next, she is raging at Frank accusing him of breaking into her house!
Jennifer is in stage six of Alzheimer’s disease. She now requires full support for her daily activities. Due to her memory loss issues, her caregivers encourage Jennifer’s family to focus on the present. Frank and Jennifer’s children are instructed not to ask Jennifer any questions about her past especially when she is agitated.
Stage Seven: Paul’s story
Meet Paul Paul is a very lovely eighty two year old man. Paul currently lives in a skilled nursing home.
Before moving to the nursing home Paul successfully created a lucrative company. Paul married well. Everyone loves Paul. You see, Paul never met a stranger due to his approachability.
Unfortunately, Paul was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. He is now in the seventh stage of Alzheimers’ disease.
Once a very active and self-sufficient man, Paul now requires round the clock care. Paul has lost most of his motor skills and ability to speak effectively. Once a great storyteller, Paul now struggles to put complete sentences together. Paul also has difficulty sitting up and forget about walking. Paul’s quality of life is not very good at this stage.
Paul’s body has begun shutting down already. He is having trouble swallowing and even breathing at this stage. Soon, his family members will have to make decisions about whether or not life saving measures should be taken. Luckily for them, Paul had the foresight to complete a Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will before his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
No one knows whether or not they will get Alzheimer’s disease. After all, life happens. However, everyone can pre-plan for their care should they become disabled or ill with Azheimer’s disease.
How? By meeting with an estate planning attorney. An estate planning attorney helps you create a Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will.
With a Health Care Power of Attorney, you determine who will make medical decisions for you if you are not able to act on your behalf. In your living will, you state whether or not life saving measures should be taken in certain situations. You can also direct your agent to not authorize any life saving measures.