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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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7 Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

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You can help support your loved one with Alzheimer's by learning more about how the condition unfolds.

The stages don't always fall into neat boxes, and the symptoms might vary -- but they can be a guide and help you plan for your friend or relative's care.

Recommended Related to Alzheimer's


If you’re caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, you may have noticed big changes in how they act in the late afternoon or early evening. Doctors call it sundowning, or sundown syndrome. It seems to be triggered by fading light, and the symptoms can get worse as the night goes on. You can do things to help both of you sleep better and be less tired during the day, though.

Read the Sundowning article > >

Stage 1: Normal Outward Behavior

When your loved one is in this early phase, he won't have any symptoms that you can spot. Only a PET scan, an imaging test that shows how the brain is working, can reveal whether he's got Alzheimer's.

As he moves into the next 6 stages, your friend or relative with Alzheimer's will see more and more changes in his thinking and reasoning.

Stage 2: Very Mild Changes

You still might not notice anything amiss in your loved one's behavior, but he may be picking up on small differences, things that even a doctor doesn't catch. This could include forgetting a word or misplacing objects.

At this stage, subtle symptoms of Alzheimer's don't interfere with his ability to work or live independently.

Keep in mind that these symptoms might not be Alzheimer's at all, but simply normal changes from aging.

Stage 3: Mild Decline

It's at this point that you start to notice changes in your loved one's thinking and reasoning, such as:

  • Forgets something he just read
  • Asks the same question over and over
  • Has more and more trouble making plans or organizing
  • Can't remember names when meeting new people

You can help by being your loved one's "memory" for him, making sure he pays bills and gets to appointments on time. You can also suggest he ease stress by retiring from work and putting his legal and financial affairs in order.

Stage 4: Moderate Decline

During this period, the problems in thinking and reasoning that you noticed in stage 3 get more obvious, and new issues appear. Your friend or family member might:

  • Forget details about himself
  • Have trouble putting the right date and amount on a check
  • Forget what month or season it is
  • Have trouble cooking meals or even ordering from a menu

You can help with everyday chores and his safety. Make sure he isn't driving anymore, and that someone isn't trying to take advantage of him financially.

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