Understanding the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease progresses over time in 5 general stages. People may experience symptoms differently in each stage, and the length of each stage depends on age, genetics, gender, and other factors.

The 5 Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Preclinical Alzheimer’s

In this initial stage, brain changes may have already occurred, such as higher levels of beta-amyloid and tau proteins, which are consistent with Alzheimer’s. However, there are no clear symptoms, such as memory loss or problems with thinking.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) Due to Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's disease may potentially be detected and diagnosed earlier during this stage. Mild symptoms begin to appear, such as problems with memory, language, and thinking. This may include forgetting appointments, losing one’s train of thought, or feeling increasingly overwhelmed with making decisions. It can be difficult to distinguish between MCI and normal aging, as symptoms may be mild or overlap. That's why it’s important to voice your concerns to a doctor when symptoms begin affecting you or your loved one's daily activities. Although the changes during this stage are noticeable, they may not yet affect a person’s ability to engage in everyday activities.

Mild Alzheimer’s Dementia

People in this stage may continue to work, stay active, and participate in their favorite activities, but their independence may start to be affected as they move into the dementia stages. Symptoms may include having problems coming up with the right words or names, misplacing valuable objects, and trouble with planning or organizing. Family and friends may need to help them occasionally, especially when it comes to handling money or bills. The symptoms begin to affect daily activities, and independence is affected.

Moderate Alzheimer’s Dementia

This stage is often the longest for people with Alzheimer’s and may last many years. Declining memory, thinking, and communication skills become more obvious. Daily tasks like bathing and getting dressed become more difficult, and people may have trouble controlling their bodily functions. Personality and behavioral changes may also occur, including moodiness and confusion. In this stage, the symptoms continue to have an impact on independence and many daily activities.

Severe Alzheimer’s Dementia

Also known as late-stage Alzheimer’s, people in this stage may need around-the-clock care. They may be unable to communicate, lose awareness of their surroundings, and are prone to infections (especially pneumonia). They may develop problems with walking, sitting, and swallowing. The symptoms in the severe stage affect the ability to do most daily activities independently.

Alzheimer’s Risk Factors

Find out more about the risk factors for and the causes of Alzheimer’s.