What Are the Stages of Dementia?

Senior man with dementia being comforted

The idea that you or a loved one may be suffering from dementia is frightening and unsettling. Understanding the condition is an important first step to knowing how to deal with dementia as it progresses.

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia is often confused with Alzheimer’s disease when in reality, Alzheimer’s is actually one of the more than 400 causes of dementia. It is also the most well-known type of the condition.

Some of the different types of dementia include:

Each cause and type affects brain function in a unique way. For example, Alzheimer’s disease creates plaques in the brain which leads to dementia. Parkinson’s disease (PD) creates nerve cell degeneration in the brain, and about 70% of PD patients develop dementia as a result. Additionally, clots, strokes, and other vascular conditions can decrease blood flow to the brain, resulting in vascular dementia. 

Within the 7 stages of dementia, there are a constellation of symptoms that typically increase as the condition progresses. These symptoms include:

  • Memory loss
  • Loss of ability to think
  • Loss of logical reasoning
  • Inability to pay attention and focus
  • Loss of other mental functions

Who Is at Risk for Dementia?

If you or a loved one is over 65, there is a 5% to 8% chance of having some form of dementia. By age 70 and every 5 years after, the percentage doubles. By the time older adults reach their 80s, as many as half of them will have some dementia symptoms.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. That said, it’s no surprise that as many as 80% of dementia patients have Alzheimer’s disease and will require Alzheimer’s care as it progresses.

In the early stages of dementia, there are medications that can temporarily improve and/or slow down cognitive impairment symptoms, but studies have shown the effects only last 6 to 12 months.

While other medications may be used to help with depression, sleep difficulties, and agitation, the far more effective therapies over the long term are accomplished by managing symptoms, particularly agitation and other emotional concerns. Assistance with simplifying daily routines, along with interventions such as cognitive stimulation, physical activity, cognitive behavioral therapy, and reminiscence therapy may also help slow the stages of dementia.

In the later stages of dementia, the best option will likely be to move them to a caring, safe atmosphere like Legacy Pointe at UCF’s memory care community.

The 7 Stages of Dementia

Medical experts have categorized dementia into 7 stages, keeping in mind that individual cases and the type of brain involvement can impact symptoms to some degree. Below is the Global Deterioration Scale (CGS)/Reisberg Scale for determining dementia severity:

Stage 1: No cognitive decline – N/A

  • Normal function
  • No memory loss

Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline – Unknown

  • Forgets names
  • Misplaces familiar objects
  • Symptoms not evident to loved ones or doctors

Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline – Average duration of this stage is between 2 and 7 years

  • Increased forgetfulness
  • Slight difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased work performance
  • Gets lost more frequently
  • Difficulty finding right words
  • Loved ones begin to notice

Stage 4 (Early Dementia): Moderate decline – Average duration of this stage is 2 years

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgets recent events
  • Cannot manage finances
  • Cannot travel alone to new places
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • In denial about symptoms
  • Socialization problems: withdrawing from friends or family
  • Physician can detect cognitive problems

Stage 5 (Middle Dementia): Moderately severe decline – Average duration of this stage is 1.5 years

  • Major memory deficiencies
  • Need assistance with ADLs (dressing, bathing, etc.)
  • Forgets details like address or phone number
  • Doesn’t know time or date
  • Doesn’t know where they are

Stage 6 (Middle Dementia): Severe cognitive decline – Average duration of this stage is 2.5 years

  • Cannot carry out ADLs without help
  • Forgets names of family members
  • Forgets recent events
  • Forgets major events in past
  • Difficulty counting down from 10
  • Incontinence (loss of bladder control)
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Personality and emotional changes
  • Delusions
  • Compulsions
  • Anxiety

Stage 7 (Late Dementia): Very severe decline – Average duration of this stage is 1.5 to 2.5 years

  • Cannot speak or communicate
  • Require help with most activities
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Cannot walk

Could your symptoms or those of a loved one indicate dementia? If you have concerns, the 15-minute MMSE can help reveal any cognitive issues that should be discussed with your doctor. Take the MMSE test.

When It’s Time for a Memory Care Community, Choose Legacy Pointe

In the later stages of dementia, your loved one will need the help of compassionate caregivers specifically trained in caring for people with late-stage memory loss – and so will you. The memory care community within Legacy Pointe is an excellent option to consider for many reasons. Give us a call to discuss a memory support plan that will help keep your loved one safe and comfortable when the time comes.

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