My mother to me is on stage 4.
I apologize for the delay in answering your question. Based on my experience with my mother, Alzheimer's doesn't really follow a linear path. One day Mom was able to recognize me and the next day she might tell me I was her niece. Some days Mom knew she was in a nursing home and other days she think that she was in an airport or a hotel.
I agree with the previous feedback that you received that the progression is different for each person. I also would suggest that you should expect that your loved one's cognitive abilities probably will vary over a period of time and not always be set in a particular stage.
Take care and keep us posted!
The tricky part about stages and phases of Alzheimer’s disease is that everyone progresses differently. It is very hard to predict how long, for example, a person might be in the middle stage. National statistics indicate that the amount of time between diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and death is eight years. However, for some people, the disease progresses very quickly and they pass away in two years, while others can live for up to 20 years.
It is not so important as to label a stage, as it is to have the knowledge to recognize and respond to each new need of your loved one. Since there is no definitive answer to your questions in regard to the time it takes an individual to change from one stage to the other, I will provide an overview of the three stages. Again, keep in mind that the stages are just benchmarks.
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease there are changes in the way a person thinks--“intellectual symptoms.” Although the illness started damaging the brain long before the first symptoms are noticed, the person with the illness also tends to cover up the very earliest signs of impaired thought. The family will often first notice symptoms of short-term memory loss. This includes forgetting what happened yesterday or this morning, what appointments were scheduled, where the car is parked or where the keys were put down, etc. Long-term memories of the distant past are not affected yet, and so the person with Alzheimer’s disease is likely to have vivid memories of previous events that can be described in great detail, but will have considerable difficulty remember what was said 10 minutes ago. Another early intellectual symptom is general confusion. This is sometimes called disorientation. People with healthy minds are able to know where we are, what we are doing, who we are, etc. A person who is disoriented may not know what time of day it is, or what building they are in. They may also not know the identities of the people around them. In addition, one of the earliest types of dysfunction is an inability to do tasks that require complex thoughts and organization, such as the process of paying the bills, organizing the grocery shopping errands, managing the household chores and preparing for upcoming events.
By the time a person reaches the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the illness has caused widespread damage in several important areas of the brain. The intellectual symptoms described earlier have become worse now. People in this stage have great difficulty functioning independently, and may require constant supervision in order to remain safe. Memory and judgment become very impaired. A person will likely have great difficulty recognizing others, communicating their thoughts correctly, and understanding others. There may be pronounced changes in personality, such as unexplained mood swings and irrational outbursts. Someone who was once quite docile may become outspoken and aggressive. A person’s ability to function also becomes very impaired. They will need help with basic daily tasks like cooking meals, cleaning—possibly even with showering and dressing. It is also common to become incontinent and have toileting accidents in this phase. There is also the introduction of a new category of problems, called “psychiatric symptoms.” This includes depression, delusions and hallucinations.
In the latest stage of Alzheimer’s disease the damage to the brain is pervasive. A person in this stage is totally dependent on others. He or she will need 24 hour a day care, professional assistance, and careful attention from others to avoid accidents and injury. In this stage a person can no longer walk independently or transfer from sitting to standing. There are many of these physical impairments which require attention. The psychiatric symptoms tend to subside in this later phase, but the intellectual symptoms are very severe. Communication may be nearly impossible for someone in this stage of the illness. In this stage, a person loses the ability to swallow and to control bladder and bowel functions.
It is hard to tell. You can check out the website of Fisher Center's Alzheimer's Research. There is a page/link talking about 7 clinical stages of AD. There it mentions something about how long each stage may last.
Please note that the stage is biased and everyone is different. Basically we can tell that the demented person gets worse every 6 months or 1 year or after each trauma such as hospitalization. The early stage could last a long time like 4 or 5 years until the moderate stage. My late FIL survived his moderate stage for 6 years and he had severe stage for 2 years. It depends on the trauma the patient may have. It is hard to tell. The director in the NH told us it usually takes 8-10 years of AD suffering before the death. It is really varied person by person.
Thanks for your reply, Nina. Everyone is different and the stages aren't clear cut, so it's hard to label them. Also, people go can back and forth between stages when they are in transion, so even doctors may not agree on which stage someone is in or how long it may last. Families would like a map, but that doesn't happen. You had sound advice as always.