The 3 Stages of Dementia: Here’s What You Should Know
Dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease, is considered a progressive diagnosis. This means someone usually starts with subtle signs and symptoms of dementia that become more noticeable over time.
Because of the development in symptoms, many organizations (including the Alzheimer’s Association) divide dementia into three stages. The stages of dementia are classified as early, middle, and end (or late) stages. Each person’s dementia diagnosis is unique, so the time spent in each stage can vary.
We’ve broken down each stage to help you understand what the process may look like if you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of dementia. Read on to learn more about the stages of dementia.
Early-stage dementia is often difficult to diagnose. Your loved one might be experiencing slight changes in mental status or cognition that can be missed without careful evaluation.
The beginning stage of dementia is also called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. When someone has symptoms of MCI, they might experience subtle changes in their memory. They may forget where they put things more frequently or have trouble completing complex tasks. These changes can make a person living with dementia second guess themselves and feel self-conscious.
Someone with early-stage dementia can still do everyday activities on their own, including driving, dressing, and cooking. They might have trouble remembering newly learned information, like that their grandchild recently graduated high school, but are likely able to safely live on their own and function independently.
This can be an excellent time to focus on your loved one’s overall health and organizing essential documents. If your loved one doesn’t already have a living will or someone you trust to help with financial decisions, this can be a good time to gather and coordinate these things.
Middle-stage dementia is also called moderate dementia. This stage of dementia is usually the longest and can last several years.
Someone living with middle or moderate stage dementia might start to have more episodes of confusion and forgetfulness. While they’re still able to do many of the activities they usually do, someone with middle-stage dementia often needs help with things like dressing, showering, and remembering appointments.
In addition to trouble completing tasks, people living with middle-stage dementia often experience confusion and may struggle to remember family members by their faces or names. Forgetting personal details like where they’re from or what they did for work is common during moderate dementia.
Because memories and thoughts become harder to recall, a person with middle-stage dementia may repeat the same story several times or make up parts of a story to fill in the missing information. This confusion may become stressful, leading someone living with middle-stage dementia to become fearful or agitated more frequently.
Since someone with middle-stage dementia may have trouble completing daily tasks, it’s important to ensure their safety. This may mean moving them into a home without stairs, helping organize meals to avoid using a stove or oven, moving them in with a loved one, or considering a move to an assisted living community.
Taking steps early on (maybe even before you think they are necessary) can ensure a situation that keeps your loved one safe and functioning at their highest level.
End-Stage Dementia (Late-Stage Dementia)
End-stage, late-stage, and severe dementia all refer to the most noticeable stage of dementia. A person living with end-stage dementia may have trouble finding words or struggle to communicate.
Another symptom of end-stage dementia is a decline in motor skills, which means your loved one may not be able to speak, walk or use utensils without assistance. Someone living with late-stage dementia needs a lot of help to complete daily tasks, including going to the restroom, bathing, and eating.
Someone living with late-stage dementia can still find joy in music, movies, being outdoors, and spending time with loved ones, even if they don’t always remember them.
If a person has end-stage dementia, they most likely need help 24/7 with personal care and tasks. Dementia care options include in-home care or moving to a memory care unit of an assisted living community.
Knowing The Stages of Dementia Can Increase Care and Quality of Life
Understanding the signs, symptoms, and stages of dementia can help you prepare yourself and your family for these changes. While there is no cure for dementia at this time, the sooner the symptoms are discovered, the sooner steps can be taken to prepare for changes. Your healthcare provider can explain the treatment options that are available for you or your loved one.
Preparing your loved ones, gathering legal and financial documents, and preparing end-of-life planning can go a long way in creating peace of mind for everyone. By being prepared, you can set yourself (and your family) up for as smooth a transition as possible during the stages of dementia.
Tandem Careplanning's Dementia Home Care Services
If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of dementia or are currently living with dementia, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Tandem Careplanning specializes in dementia home care. Tandem can help you create a customized care plan for you or your loved one, and we’ll help guide you every step of the way.