Please check out the websites alz.org or alzinfo.org for the details on stages and etc. There are 7 clinical stages as well as 3 general stages (early, moderate and severe.) It takes a long time to be progressive - it may take up to 10 or 20 years to go donwhill for regular onset of Alzheimer's. For early onset, it may be at least 5 years.
Usually it is in stage 7 when it is the last stage for Alzheimer's. Unless one can from heart disease or other disease before he/she reaches the end stage, the patient would die from not eating and/or pneumonia because the patient can no longer function normally and is shutting down. At this point, hospice is needed to make sure they can go in peace.
Hope this helps,
I just wanted to chime in that other diseases often take a toll before Alzheimer's runs through its progression and causes a person to die. For instance, my mom died of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (due to many years of smoking) although she also was in the middle- to late-stages of Alzheimer's.
Every case of Alzheimer's disease is different, but there are some general characteristics pertaining to the progression of the disease. In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, there is the loss of what are known as "intellectual symptoms," which affect the way in which a person thinks. These symptoms include short-term memory loss and disorientation and confusion to person, place and time. The ability to complete tasks that require complex thoughts and organization is affected as well. The middle stage is characterized by increased deterioration in "intellectual symptoms," with memory and judgment being severely impaired. The individual will require more assistance with his or her activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing. Communication and the ability to process and understand information will be difficult for the person with Alzheimer's disease in this stage. There may be changes in personality, such as emotional outbursts and mood swings. Depression, delusions and hallucinations are common in the middle stage as well. As the individual moves into the final stages, there is pervasive damage to the brain and total assistance is now required. Physical abilities, such as walking and transferring, are severely limited, and there may be little to no ability to communicate. During the final stages, the person with Alzheimer's disease has lost the ability to verbalize his or her thoughts and to swallow food, and is generally more susceptible to infections. As a result, death can be caused from co-existing illness like pneumonia or even from failure of multi-organs. It is important to remember that even though the average amount of time between diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and death is eight years, every individual with Alzheimer's disease progresses at different rates and in different ways.
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