The Three Faces of Alzheimer’s Disease

Many are aware of the seven stages of Alzheimer’s and the symptoms associated with each.  However, there are also three classifications, or types, used to diagnosis the disease: Early-onset Alzheimer’s; Late-onset Alzheimer’s; and Familial Alzheimer’s.

The majority of patients living with Alzheimer’s experience confusion, memory loss, trouble making decisions, and increasing difficulty performing simple daily tasks. However, these symptoms also help to identify the patient’s specific Alzheimer’s type. Identifying and understanding the characteristics of each type can provide doctors and caregivers valuable information to better treat a loved one.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s patients are first diagnosed with the disease in their 40’s or 50’s and represent less than ten percent of all people living with Alzheimer’s. Individuals with Down Syndrome may have a higher risk for Early-onset Alzheimer’s, as they tend to age faster.

Late-onset Alzheimer’s is the most common type of Alzheimer’s and the one most familiar to the general public. Individuals diagnosed with Late-onset Alzheimer’s are most often 65 years of age, or older, and will move through seven stages as the disease progresses: 1) Normal Outward Behavior; 2) Very Mild Changes; 3) Mild Decline; 4) Moderate Decline; 5) Moderately Severe Decline; 6) Sever Decline; and 7) Very Severe Decline.  Late-onset Alzheimer’s patients usually live eight to ten years after diagnosis, but many have lived 25 years or more.  This type of Alzheimer’s may, or may not, run in families.  To date, research experts have not found any gene connection that would determine why some get the disease, while others do not.

Familial Alzheimer’s, or FAD, has been found to be linked to certain gene pools where members of at least two generations are diagnosed with Familial Alzheimer’s disease.  However, FAD makes up less than one percent of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease.

No matter what type of Alzheimer’s disease we may be dealing with, the love and support provided as caregivers remain positive and strong.