What Are the 7 Stages of Dementia?
When we hear the word “dementia,” most of us think of memory loss. In reality, dementia is a complex syndrome that can be broken down into various stages. What are the 7 stages of dementia and why is it important? If you can recognize these stages, you can help your loved one receive a diagnosis and get the care they need. Let’s review what dementia is, the different stages and what to do if you notice symptoms.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a syndrome characterized by a cognitive decline that disrupts daily life. It’s broken down into two categories: primary degenerative dementia (PDD) and multi-infarct dementia (MID). These can be further divided into different disorders, such as frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia usually comes with the following symptoms:
- Communication issues
- Memory problems
- Increased wandering
- Mood changes
The extent of these symptoms varies depending on what stage of dementia the person is in.
What Are the 7 Stages of Dementia and How to Determine It?
When determining the progression of dementia, diagnosticians often rely on the seven-stage model. So what are the 7 stages of dementia? The seven stages of dementia is based on the Global Deterioration Scale, an assessment tool made by Dr. Barry Reisberg. Originally, he created the scale to help friends and family members discover signs of dementia in loved ones. Now, it’s used by people and doctors across the world. Here’s a brief breakdown of the seven stages.
1. No Memory Impairment
When dementia begins, there are usually no identifiable symptoms. The patient won’t have any signs of memory loss or other behavioral problems. Patients in this dementia stage are rarely diagnosed.
2. Age-Associated Memory Impairment
Age-associated memory impairment, also known as slight or very mild cognitive decline, is the first stage when symptoms start to appear. These symptoms are minimal and can easily be mistaken for normal memory decline. They may include:
- Misplacing/losing items
- Forgetting names
- Losing their train of thought
Generally, this stage of dementia doesn’t interfere with regular life. The person can still hold a job, complete obligations and engage in regular social activity. Some people will simply remain in this stage, while others will progress to more serious stages.
3. Mild Cognitive Impairment
When an individual reaches the mild cognitive impairment stage, symptoms will become much more pronounced. In addition to misplacing objects or forgetting the occasional name, someone in this stage may:
- Forget names of people they just met
- Struggle to speak or remember the right words
- Fail to remember things they just read or retain knowledge
People with mild cognitive decline typically have poorer organizational and time management abilities. For example, they may forget about deadlines or struggle to complete a task at work. They may also fail to complete regular household duties, such as paying bills. Overall, the stage can last for up to seven years.
4. Moderate Cognitive Decline
This stage, also known as mild dementia, is associated with both short- and long-term memory issues. These symptoms, which are harder to hide, may include:
- Difficulty remembering recent events
- Trouble remembering things that happened earlier in the day
- Difficulty remembering past events and details
When an individual reaches this stage of dementia, it becomes harder to function independently. They may no longer be able to manage their own finances, complete chores or even travel to new places alone. Often these symptoms cause embarrassment, resulting in the dementia patient withdrawing from social interactions. This stage usually lasts about two years. Because the symptoms are apparent, many patients receive an official diagnosis at this point.
5. Moderate Dementia
Moderate dementia, or moderately severe cognitive decline, is recognized by major memory loss that greatly interferes with a person’s ability to manage on their own. At this point, an individual will forget essential information, such as:
- Their own phone number or address
- The names of close family members
- Important events
In addition to memory problems, the dementia patient may no longer be able to execute activities of daily living. They might need help with grooming, making meals and picking out clothes. However, they can still eat and use the bathroom on their own. And although they may forget names, people at this stage can typically still recognize loved ones and recall their own personal history. Moderate dementia tends to last for a year and a half.
6. Severe Cognitive Decline
When a patient enters severe cognitive decline, or middle dementia, they’ll start to require a heightened level of care. While they can still remember some things (such as their own name or familiar faces), they’ll struggle greatly with:
- Communicating normally
- Remembering names
- Remembering recent events
Physical symptoms also worsen at this stage — patients typically experience incontinence, restlessness, speech impediments and compulsive behaviors. These issues may cause emotional agitation, leading to increased irritability and mood changes. To keep the patient safe, it’s usually advisable to work with a caregiver at this stage. Overall, middle dementia can last from two to three years.
7. Severe Dementia
The final stage of dementia is severe dementia (also called late-stage dementia or very severe cognitive decline). At this point, the person can no longer communicate effectively or perform basic tasks. They will likely struggle with:
- Using the bathroom
This stage usually lasts for at least two years. Due to the severity of symptoms, these patients require round-the-clock care, which can be provided at a memory care home.
Cedar Creek Memory Care: Contact Us Today
If you recognize symptoms of dementia in a loved one, don’t ignore them. The sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner you can get your loved one the care they need. At Cedar Creek Memory Care, we help improve quality of life for residents at any stage of dementia by providing a nurturing environment, quality medical care and memory care activities. We also provide end-of-life care. Our memory care homes (located in Bethesda, Rockville and Silver Spring, Maryland) are open to everyone. To learn more, contact us online or call us at (301) 384-4017.