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Recognizing Dementia and Its Symptoms

Health worker speaking with elderly dementia patient

As your loved ones age, your concern for health conditions that may pose a risk to them naturally increases. Dementia affects people, nearly ten million each year, and a senior’s risk doubles roughly every five years.

Despite what many may assume, dementia is not a disease. Dementia is an umbrella term used to categorize a group of symptoms, namely memory loss and cognitive decline, caused by other conditions.

The common types of dementia include

Some people living with dementia may experience more than one type at once, resulting in mixed dementia.

Dementia can generally be split into two groups based on the area of the brain affected or the types of neurons damaged.

Cortical dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, primarily affect the cerebral cortex or outer layer of the brain, which plays a large role in processing information, language, and memory.

Subcortical dementias affect the parts of the brain beneath the cortex, slowing down one’s thought process, changing their personality, and/or causing them to lose the ability to start activities. Language and memory skills are largely unaffected. Dementias caused by Parkinson’s disease or other similar disorders fall into this group.

Lewy body dementia is both cortical and subcortical.

What Are the Early to Late Stages of Dementia?

While the type of dementia one has may vary, all forms of dementia are degenerative. Symptoms will worsen over time. These symptoms vary depending on the area of the brain affected and are irreversible. Life expectancy will also vary.

Stage One: No Impairment

At this stage, your loved one isn’t showing or experiencing any symptoms of cognitive impairment. Tests may indicate there is a problem in the brain.

Stage Two: Very Mild Decline

Your loved one may be experiencing what appears to be normal, age-appropriate forgetfulness such as misplacing an item or forgetting the right word. They are still independent.

Stage Three: Mild Decline

You will notice changes in your loved one’s memory or thinking/reasoning skills. They may repeatedly ask the same questions, forget recent events, or struggle with complex tasks or problem-solving.

Stage Four: Moderate Decline

Stage Four is commonly defined as the early stage of dementia. Symptoms of cognitive decline are apparent, and at this point, your loved one should frequently consult a healthcare professional. Your loved one may be more inclined to withdraw from social situations, have trouble with routine tasks, and experience more moodiness.

Stage Five: Moderately Severe Decline

Your loved one may forget their phone number or grandchildren’s names. They likely will need assistance with day-to-day tasks such as dressing or bathing. They should either have a home caregiver or move to a Memory Care community.

Stage Six: Severe Decline

Known as middle dementia, stage six involves your loved one requiring assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs): using the restroom, eating, and general mobility.

Your loved one will have difficulty recognizing family members and recalling the name of their spouse. They may exhibit repetitive or obsessive behavior and increased paranoia and anxiety.

Nurse in assisted living helping patient with dementia

Stage Seven: Very Severe Decline

Long-Term Treatment as Dementia Progresses

Stage 7 is referred to as late dementia or the last stage of dementia. Your loved one cannot care for themselves nor speak their thoughts. They may experience severe motor and communication impairment and spend most of their day in bed.

What stage of dementia is sundowning?

Sundowning, or a state of confusion and agitation that occurs in the late afternoon into the night, can happen at any stage of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease but is more common during the middle and later stages.

Long-Term Treatment as Dementia Progresses

The timeline of dementia progresses and presents itself differently for each person who experiences it. Understanding the seven stages of dementia can help prepare everyone on what to expect and make the transitions a little easier.

Integrating proven methods that enhance your loved one’s mental acuity into their daily life is highly beneficial and worthwhile. These may include sensory perception activities, sensory recognition, and therapeutic programming.

Ensure your loved one takes medication as prescribed by their doctor, which will help manage their symptoms.

Supporting Your Loved One Through Community

A loving and supportive community is essential as you and your loved one navigate this process. At Chelsea Senior Living, you can find just that 24/7.

We provide our Memory Care residents with a secure and safe environment. Our innovative and personalized programs engage them with triggers of familiarity to promote emotional wellness, cognitive strength, and physical activity.

Follow us on social media to see how our Memory Care specialists can best support your loved one’s needs, happiness, and quality of life. Remember, you are not alone. We’re here to help and offer life care.