Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. The disease is progressive and, at this point, incurable.

According to The National Institute on Aging and the medical community at large, the progression of Alzheimer’s disease varies from person to person.[1] For some, Alzheimer’s first manifests as hindered ability to reason, or impaired judgement, or the disease may cause them difficulty finding appropriate words to express themselves verbally. They may have difficulty navigating within their visual field or making sense of the actual space they occupy. The disease has been organized into three descriptive stages: Mild, Moderate, and Severe.[2] Some organizations describe levels of functioning within those three stages. Additionally, each person living with Alzheimer’s disease will experience the stages in different ways and for different lengths of time. Each stage can be defined based upon exhibited behavior patterns. The three stages of Alzheimer’s disease, printed verbatim from the website of the National Institute on Aging[3], are described as follows:

Mild Alzheimer’s Disease (early stage)

Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease (middle stage)

  • Increased memory loss and confusion
  • Inability to learn new things
  • Difficulty with language and problems with reading, writing, and working with numbers
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts and thinking logically
  • Shortened attention span
  • Problems coping with new situations
  • Difficulty carrying out multistep tasks, such as getting dressed
  • Problems recognizing family and friends
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia
  • Impulsive behavior such as undressing at inappropriate times or places or using vulgar language
  • Inappropriate outbursts of anger
  • Restlessness, agitation, anxiety, tearfulness, wandering—especially in the late afternoon or evening
  • Repetitive statements or movement, occasional muscle twitches

Severe Alzheimer’s Disease (late stage)

  • Inability to communicate
  • Weight loss
  • Seizures
  • Skin infections
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Groaning, moaning, or grunting
  • Increased sleeping
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control

Knowledge of the stages of Alzheimer’s disease can be very useful to a patient’s family and caregivers. This can better help families and care providers plan for the future.

[1] National Institute on Aging, What are the Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease, available at (last visited Feb. 27, 2018).

[2] National Institute on Aging, What are the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease, available at (last visited Feb. 27, 2018).

[3] National Institute on Aging, What are the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease, available at (last visited Feb. 27, 2018).


Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning