Your loved one has recently been diagnosed with dementia or maybe they are showing signs of memory loss. Your mind is probably moving in a million different directions on what to do next. How can you tell if they aren’t just being forgetful? There are different stages of dementia your loved one can be experiencing, early-, middle- and late-stage dementia. But, what does that mean? There are several different scales that doctors use to break down the progression of dementia into more detailed intervals. One of the common measures is known as the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia, which breaks down progression into seven stages.
Learning about the stages of dementia can help you identify the signs and symptoms early on and what to expect in later stages of dementia. The earlier you’re able to catch the signs of dementia in your loved one, the better chance you have of treating and managing it.
People who are in the first stage are simply normal functioning adults. We all start in the first stage, in which we exhibit no cognitive decline.
Most healthy elderly adults are in the second stage. This is when some minor cognitive impairment occurs, but they are still fully functional and aware of the changes. This stage encompasses the forgetfulness associated with normal aging, such as forgetting the names of friends or misplacing their keys.
In the third stage, there is an increase in forgetfulness and some difficulty focusing. Your loved one may easily get lost and have trouble expressing themselves, they will probably begin to notice these changes. Nonetheless, this stage can last up to seven years on average before dementia progresses.
The fourth stage represents the onset of dementia, during which a doctor can clearly detect the illness in an exam. Concentration and recall of recent events becomes difficult, as does the completion of complex tasks. In this stage, your loved one may be in denial about their symptoms and withdraw from social interactions.
Memory problems become severe in the fifth stage, including basic information about their own life and current situation, like their name or address, or where they are. At this point, your loved one will likely require assistance with the activities of daily life like bathing, dressing and eating. On average, this stage can last about a year and a half.
When your loved one reaches the sixth stage, which on average can last about two and a half years, they’ll require extensive assistance with daily activities. Finishing tasks will be difficult, and they’ll begin forgetting the names of family memories and won’t recall recent events, but can likely remember details of early life. Incontinence becomes an issue at this stage, and the ability to speak declines. At this point, they may also experience personality changes, including delusions and compulsions. Agitation and anxiety are also common.
The final stage of dementia can last an average of two and a half years. At this point, your loved one will require assistance with nearly all activities of daily life. They’ll often lose the ability to speak, walk and even eat.
If you your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, you should speak with their doctor and get a prompt diagnosis. As a caregiver, it’s also important to put together a plan for how to provide care to your loved one as the illness progresses, and learn ways of coping with their symptoms. Whether they move in with you, you hire in a home health care or they move to a senior living community, know that anyone experiencing dementia will eventually need careful, 24/7 care.