Stages of Alzheimer’s

  • The Alzheimer’s Association divides the progression of the disease into seven stages (other sources may divide it into fewer, broader stages).
  • Patients live an average of 8 to 10 years after diagnosis, but some may live significantly longer.
  • Understanding the demands associated with each of the stages of Alzheimer’s can help you plan for your loved one’s care.

Next Step

Learn about treatments that can alleviate some symptoms.

Learn more

Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t follow a neatly predictable course, but its progression can be roughly divided into seven stages. Note that divisions between stages may be somewhat subjective.

  • Stage 1: No impairment
  • Stage 2: Very mild decline
  • Stage 3: Mild decline
  • Stage 4: Moderate decline (mild or early stage)
  • Stage 5: Moderately severe decline (moderate or mid-stage)
  • Stage 6: Severe decline (moderately severe or mid-stage)
  • Stage 7: Very severe decline (severe or late stage)

In the early stages, the person continues to function somewhat independently. Short-term memory and concentration have begun to fade, and speech may be slightly impaired. Hygiene may begin to slip, and the person may respond in an erratic or highly emotional way to changes. Daily tasks may take longer, but are often still possible. It’s important to communicate with your loved one about the changes while he or she remains aware of them.

Symptoms become pronounced and obvious in the early-middle stages, including frequent disorientation and an inability to learn new information. Poor coordination can lead to accidents, and simple decisions may be overwhelming. The individual may not be able to remember personal history and will likely have trouble with math problems.

Individuals in the late-middle stages are able to perform simple tasks but may not recall their purpose. Simple decisions become difficult, and awareness of recent experiences and surroundings is often lost. Personality changes may occur. The person may wander off or get lost on the way to the bathroom. Supervision of most activities is required, including getting dressed.

Severe or late-stage Alzheimer’s typically lasts one to five years, during which the person requires constant care. He or she is likely unable to carry on conversations or control movements, and may experience hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia. Eventually, the Alzheimer’s sufferer is unable to speak or get out of bed. Death is often caused by a complication such as pneumonia, dehydration, malnutrition, or infection of the lungs, skin, or urinary tract.

Next Step: Learn about drug and non-drug treatments.

Ask the Expert


Experts at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America have the answers to your toughest Alzheimer’s and dementia questions.

Learn more