How to Spot the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
A natural part of aging is forgetfulness. It’s to be expected that your mind won’t be as sharp as it used to be when you get older. But how much of what you or your loved one is experiencing is normal, and when should you be concerned? Learning the stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia will help you get a better understanding of whether it’s just a sign of your age or a reason to be worried.
The Global Deterioration Scale
A model often used to understand the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative dementias was developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg of New York University. It is known as the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS), or Reisberg Scale, and it breaks down the illness into seven stages based on severity. Stages 4-7 are considered the dementia stages.
- Stage 1, No Cognitive Decline: There is no sign of any impairment. People in this category are mentally healthy.
- Stage 2, Very Mild Cognitive Decline (Age-Associated Memory Impairment): Individuals at this stage may experience some forgetfulness regarding names and placement of objects and can have trouble finding the right word in conversation. These problems are often not apparent to others.
- Stage 3, Mild Cognitive Decline (Mild Cognitive Impairment): At this stage, people close to the affected individual may notice when they are having problems with their words, and an overall decline in their work and social abilities. The individual may also begin to misplace valuable objects like wallets, keys and jewelry, and retain little information from things they read.
- Stage 4, Moderate Cognitive Decline (Mild Dementia): At this time, a diagnosis of dementia can be made. Individuals have a diminished ability to successfully complete complex tasks such as managing finances and paying bills, cooking meals, and performing more difficult mental math. They may also begin to forget some things about their personal history and start to act more withdrawn. This is the last stage where independent living is possible.
- Stage 5, Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline (Moderate Dementia): Once the illness has progressed to stage 5, the individual will need some assistance to keep up with daily activities. They may not be able to remember important information such as their address or phone number, what day it is, or where they are. They also could require help selecting the right clothing for the weather or occasion. They often still can remember key information about themselves, such as their name, and the names of those close to them.
- Stage 6, Severe Cognitive Decline (Moderately Severe Dementia): Throughout stage 6, the individual becomes more forgetful and more dependent on others for help with regular tasks such as using a restroom. They may begin to forget all names except their own but often can distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar faces. Their personality may start to change, and they can experience delusions and hallucinations.
- Stage 7, Very Severe Cognitive Decline (Severe Dementia): Over the course of the final stage of dementia, the individual loses the ability to respond to their surroundings, control their movement, and speak. They require assistance to walk, sit, and eat.
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