The Stages of Alzheimer's Disease
Most doctors identify three main stages of Alzheimer's disease -- mild, moderate, and severe. Because each stage of dementia can last for several years or more, it can also be helpful to understand whether your loved one seems to be in the early, middle, or late part of each stage. Changes in memory and other thinking skills are the most reliable way to track someone's progression through dementia, but other symptoms also help to indicate the stage.
Gain additional insight into your loved one's stage of dementia, along with expert guidance and community support, with Caring.com's Steps & Stages, a free customizable resource for family caregivers.
Early: You'll likely first notice an occasional repetition of stories, ideas, and questions -- or notice that appointments and errands go forgotten.
Mid: Deteriorating immediate memory loss causes word-for-word repetition of comments and questions to become more noticeable and more frequent, though it may not happen every day.
Late: The same stories are now repeated word for word at least several times a day; it's noticeable by strangers as well as family but doesn't yet happen continually.
Early: Stories and questions are repeated on very short loops, within minutes, continuously throughout the day.
Mid: As recent memory erodes, your loved one will begin asking questions like, "Where are we?" or "Why are we here?" or "What am I supposed to be doing?"
Late: Your loved one now views distant memories as recent (such as a deceased parent being referred to as alive) and sometimes can't accurately identify friends and some family members.
Early: Even distant memories are harder to recall and are no longer mentioned; your loved one may not recognize close family or know names.
Mid: Your loved one may not recognize even a primary caregiver and may talk little or use nonsense speech or singsong.
Late: Your loved one is unlikely to speak more than a few words a day, can no longer sit up, and seems to stare right through you.
Early Mild-Stage Dementia Symptoms
- Sometimes forgets appointments or important tasks
- Rarely repeats questions, ideas, stories within minutes
- Sometimes leaves self reminder notes
- Sometimes takes multiple doses or skip doses
- Sometimes forgets to refill prescriptions
Mid Mild-Stage Dementia Symptoms
- Reads books with fewer words
- Begins to say less in phone conversations
- Cooks simpler recipes
- Gets lost, even on familiar routes
- Often forgets appointments or important tasks
- Forgets to refill prescriptions
- Occasionally repeats questions, ideas, stories within minutes
- Often takes multiple doses or skips doses
- Often forgets to refill prescriptions
Late Mild-Stage Dementia Symptoms
- Misuses words (such as calling a toothbrush a stick)
- Continually forgets appointments or important tasks
- Repeats questions, ideas, stories within minutes daily
Early Moderate-Stage Dementia Symptoms
- Talks about past and present but doesn't remember recent events (exception: some emotional memories)
- Needs help choosing from a menu
- Needs help choosing and putting food on plate
- Needs help choosing what to wear
- Opens wallet to cashier to "take what you need"
- Repeating a behavior over and over
- Can't reliably remember what happened yesterday
- Continually repeats questions, ideas, stories within minutes
Mid Moderate-Stage Dementia Symptoms
- Strongest memories are of distant past
- Talks about childhood/early life more than present
- Says, "You never visit me" to someone who was just there yesterday
- Asks, "Where are we?" or "Why are we here?" or "What should I be doing?"
- Doesn't recognize own home
- Can't reliably remember who just visited
- Forgets difference between public and private behavior (disinhibition)
- Forgets to Take Medication Properly
Late Moderate-Stage Dementia Symptoms
- Sometimes can't identify friends, family
- Confuses distant memories as being recent
- Used to leave reminder notes but no longer
Early Severe-Stage Dementia Symptoms
- Uses nonsense speech
- Often can't identify friends, family
- Difficulty retrieving even distant memories
Mid Severe-Stage Dementia Symptoms
Late Severe-Stage Dementia Symptoms
Get detailed information about each symptom of Alzheimer's disease.