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Dementia Progression: What to Expect from Diagnosis to End Stage Dementia

Nearly 50 million people in the world currently have dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common–and the most well-known–forms of dementia. But your loved one does not have to contract Alzheimer’s disease in order to experience dementia.

Dementia can have profound emotional and psychological impact on everyone involved.

Understanding dementia progression can help you prepare for your loved one’s journey and care. In this post, we discuss the general stages of dementia so that you know what to expect.

Read on for insight.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome that results in deterioration in cognitive function, including memory, thought, and behavior. It is natural for elderly individuals to experience various forms of this deterioration.

However, dementia marks a severe form of cognitive deterioration abnormal to the aging process.

Scientists are still trying to understand dementia and its many forms. One of the most common types of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death worldwide.

Dementia typically results from a specific disease or neurological condition, such as a stroke. Its primary cause is damaged nerve cells in the brain.

It can be difficult to predict dementia, particularly because it can be hard to distinguish from typical forgetfulness that comes with aging. However, knowledge of dementia’s progression can help you recognize these stages in your loved one.

Dementia can occur in three or seven stages, depending on the type of dementia.

Three Stage Dementia

The most general and comprehensive way of describing dementia progression is via three stages: mild, moderate, and severe.

Mild

In the first mild stage of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, individuals will experience general forgetfulness. They may forget where they’ve placed certain items, such as wallets or keys.

They may also have difficulty finding words when speaking or recalling past conversations. A lot of people with early dementia may feel frequently confused or as if they don’t have full cognitive control over a given situation.

You may also start to notice small occurrences of irrationality or lack of emotional control in your loved one at this point.

Other forms of dementia, including Lewy Body Dementia and Frontotemporal Dementia, may cause different symptoms in this mild stage. These include difficulty focusing, hallucinations, over-eating, and striking behavioral issues.

Moderate

At this middle point in dementia progression, individuals are likely to experience more pronounced mild-stage symptoms.

People with Alzheimer’s disease, for example, may have greater memory loss at this stage. They are also more prone to prolonged periods of confusion, wandering, and forgetting of personal information.

Individuals struggling with moderate stage dementia likely require a caregiver. They may need assistance with simple daily tasks, including eating, bathing, and hygiene.

Other forms of dementia may cause varying symptoms in this moderate stage.

People with Lewy Body Dementia, for example, may experience dramatic fluctuations between lucidity and confusion. They may also continue to hallucinate and have difficulty with basic movement.

Frontotemporal dementia may cause more compulsive behavior and issues with weight management.

Severe

At this stage, most people with dementia require intensive, around-the-clock care, often in an assisted living facility.

Individuals at this stage are likely to lose their ability to speak coherently or engage in meaningful conversation. They may also experience loss of control over physical functions.

Many people with severe dementia also feel physically weak and struggle to move around on their own. Others may lack full awareness of their surroundings and their relationships, making this stage the most challenging of all.

Seven-Stage Dementia

Some forms of dementia may be more nuanced when it comes to symptoms and progression. Medical practitioners often refer to the following seven stages when categorizing symptoms.

Stage 1: Neutral

At this stage, individuals do not show any signs of cognitive deterioration. They do not appear to be obviously impaired in any way.

What’s more, memory loss is not apparent.

Stage 2: Very Mild

This second stage of dementia indicates very mild cognitive decline. Your loved one may exhibit general forgetfulness. They may misplace personal belongings or forget parts of conversations.

These individuals may also have very minor and infrequent bouts of confusion.

For the most part, very mild dementia is not too noticeable in aging individuals. This is because it appears as “typical” forgetfulness.

Stage 3: Mild

This step is much like the first stage of decline in the three-stage progression of dementia. People with mild dementia experience frequent forms of forgetfulness.

They are also often confused, struggling to recall past events and important appointments.

While stage 2 of seven-stage dementia may pass for a general symptom of aging, stage 3 dementia is noticeable. Friends and family members are likely to be aware of this.

Stage 4: Moderate

At this point, people with moderate dementia can be officially diagnosed. Their confusion, challenged cognitive function, and memory loss are very apparent.

These people may have trouble staying engaged in certain conversations. They may fluctuate in and out of lucidity and clarity.

Stage 5: Moderate to Severe

People with moderate to severe dementia are prone to disorientation and wandering. They may find themselves feeling constantly confused. These individuals may also have trouble living alone or being independent.

Moderate to severe dementia can also cause emotional or behavioral changes. This includes irrationality, impulsiveness, and even anger.

Stage 6: Severe

In the severe stage of dementia, your loved one will absolutely require full-on care. They may have trouble with certain physical functions. They are also likely to experience memory loss with personal relationships.

Some individuals with severe dementia also undergo pronounced personality changes.

Stage 7: Very Severe

Individuals with very severe dementia are in the final stage of this condition. They depend upon others daily and experience consistent memory loss, confusion, and physical challenges.

At this point, people with very severe dementia may not be able to communicate verbally.

Dementia Progression

Understanding how dementia progresses is at the heart of navigating this difficult journey with your loved one. While dementia is a painful disease to witness, it is predictable in how it advances.

Dementia progression can be broken into three or seven stages. The model used will depend on the type of dementia and medical practitioner.

At Seasons, we are here to provide your loved one with the personal care he or she requires. Start a conversation with us now to learn more about our services for patients with dementia.