The Various Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

07 February, 2021
Presently, the stages of Alzheimer's disease are relentless in their progression. There's no cure for this disease. However, knowing its course, there's less uncertainty.

Current medical literature indicates the causes of the onset and stages of Alzheimer’s disease are multiple and complex. Of these, age is the main risk factor one can’t modify. On a positive note, research on this condition has been constant throughout the decades. In fact, it’s made it possible to affirm that there are many stages in terms of evolution and diagnosis.

Actually, cognitive and behavioral deterioration is characteristic of this neurodegenerative disease. Its onset is usually insidious. For example, it’s a condition that progresses slowly and gradually, so its symptoms aren’t obvious at the beginning. Thus, its course is progressive and mainly afflicts old adults.

“The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.”

-Lao Tzu-

A man trying to understand a woman.

Preclinical phase

This phase is based on the evidence that the pathological process of this disease begins years before its clinical manifestation. Hence the insidious onset referred to in the previous paragraph. Consider the importance of this stage in order to discover treatments that can prevent further deterioration or even slow down its evolution.

This is the least studied stage so far, although it’s clearly a stage in which molecular alterations that lead to a process of neuronal degeneration begin to occur. However, these alterations aren’t yet bad enough to cause symptoms. Therefore, preclinical Alzheimer’s refers to a stage in which a person is still asymptomatic.

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

The stages a patient with this disease goes through should be a generic guide. This is because Alzheimer’s affects each person differently.

Some may experience symptoms more or less intensely or simply go through these stages differently. Thus, there are three stages of Alzheimer’s after diagnosis:


In this stage, a person still functions independently and autonomously. They can run errands, participate in social events, and work. However, they may begin to experience memory loss and forget some words they regularly use. Also, they may be spending more time looking for everyday objects because they can’t remember where they left them.

At this point, people in their immediate environment may begin to notice a decrease in memory or concentration difficulties. Also, their physician might be able to conclude, based on clinical criteria, that the disease is starting to manifest.

Middle stage

This stage of Alzheimer’s disease may go on for several years, so it’s the longest-lasting. The person with Alzheimer’s will likely require more attention as the years go by. This is because their neuronal alterations make it harder for them to properly express their thoughts or emotions and to perform daily tasks.

It’s common for these patients to be in a bad mood and be frustrated and angry for no apparent reason. Also, their personality or behavior may change and they’ll behave unexpectedly (not wanting to take a shower, for example). It’s common for a person with Alzheimer’s to mix words or not remember important details of their life during this stage. In fact, they might forget their telephone number, their wedding date, the college they attended, where they live, and even the date.

The increases the risk of them losing track of time and space and becoming disoriented and, thus, lost. Therefore, it greatly impacts their need for a higher level of attention and a caregiver.


The most severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease greatly hampers the ability of these individuals to communicate with their environment. They may not be able to follow a conversation, articulate words, control their body movements, or even swallow.

This results in their need for continuous assistance in order to carry out daily activities such as grooming. Likewise, their cognitive abilities worsen, and their vulnerability to certain infections such as pneumonia increases.

A man in one of the stages of Alzheimer's.

The importance of diagnosis in the early stages of Alzheimer’s

Life expectancy and quality of care have both increased in recent years. Consequently, one can expect a greater prevalence of this type of neurodegenerative disease in the future.

In this regard, one of the current lines of research work is early diagnosis, given that the stages of Alzheimer’s disease are already understood. The health benefits to these patients would reflect on many levels and directly impact their quality of life. This is because they’d slow down the cognitive deterioration that’s characteristic of this condition.

Dubois B. ‘Prodromal Alzheimer’s disease’: a more useful concept than mild cognitive impairment? Curr Opi Neurol 2000; 13: 367-9

Fischer P, Jungwirth S, Zehetmayer S, Weissgram S, Hoenigschnabl S, Gelpi E, et al. Conversion from subtypes of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer dementia. Neurology 2007; 68: 288-91.

McKahnn G, Drachman D, Folstein M. Clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease: report of the NINCDS-ADRDA Work Group under the auspices of Department of Health and Human Services Task Force on Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology 1984; 34: 939-44.