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Persevering Through Mid-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease
By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

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Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a difficult task as each day brings unique challenges and the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. In recent years, attempts have been made to categorize the stages of Alzheimer’s in order to gauge the progression of the disease. Staging systems can provide useful frames of reference for understanding how the disease may develop and can assist physicians in treating patients. Awareness of these stages can also help caregivers to prepare for their loved one’s needs, as well as determine their own capacity for coping and planning ahead.

In general, Alzheimer’s symptoms can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. Physicians may also use the terms early, mid and late-stage Alzheimer’s.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, experts have documented seven common patterns of symptom progression that occur in many individuals and developed several methods of “staging” based on these patterns. It is important to note that not everyone will experience the exact same symptoms or progress at the same rate. In addition, people with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after diagnosis, but the duration of the disease can vary from three to twenty years.

To more fully understand the mid-stage of AD, one must understand the early and late stages, as well. This expanded framework from the Alzheimer’s Association outlines key symptoms that describe the general stages of AD progression:

Stage 1:  No impairment (normal function)
Unimpaired individuals experience no memory problems and none are evident to a health care professional during a medical interview.

Stage 2:  Very mild cognitive decline
(may be normal age-related changes or earliest signs of Alzheimer's disease)
Individuals may feel they have memory lapses, especially in forgetting familiar words or names or the location of keys, eyeglasses or other everyday objects. But these problems are not evident during a medical examination or apparent to friends, family or co-workers.

Stage 3:  Mild cognitive decline
Friends, family or co-workers begin to notice deficiencies. Problems with memory or concentration may be measurable in clinical testing or during a detailed medical interview. Common difficulties include:

  • Word- or name-finding problems noticeable to family or close associates
  • Decreased ability to remember names when introduced to new people
  • Performance issues in social or work settings noticeable to family, friends or co-workers
  • Reading a passage and retaining little material
  • Losing or misplacing a valuable object
  • Decline in ability to plan or organize


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