doctor explaining diagnosis to his female patient

The 7 Stages of Dementia

Currently, more than 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older are living with some form of dementia and this number is expected to hit 13.8 million by 2050. The discovery that your loved one has dementia can be an emotional experience, but just remember, you’re not alone. The first step to managing it is to learn more about dementia, from how it progresses to treatment options.

Becoming familiar with the common seven stages of dementia can help you and your family better understand what to expect and plan for the future. The dementia stages below give an overall idea of how symptoms progress over time, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

STAGE 1: No Impairment

In Stage 1 of dementia, there are no signs of dementia; the person functions normally and is mentally healthy. There are no signs or symptoms, no memory loss, behavioral problems, or anything associated with the onset of dementia.

STAGE 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline

In this stage, there is common forgetfulness that is often associated with normal signs of aging. Your loved one may start to notice some level of forgetfulness, but symptoms of dementia are still not apparent to medical professionals or loved ones. Some of the side effects that correspond with Stage 2 include forgetting everyday phrases or names or forgetting the location of important objects (misplacing eyeglasses or car keys).

STAGE 3: Mild Cognitive Decline

Stage 3 is where dementia symptoms may become noticeable to friends and family. It might not have a major impact on your loved one’s day-to-day life, but it’s crucial to recognize the signs for early diagnosis and intervention.

Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment

  • Losing or misplacing objects more frequently
  • Increased memory loss
  • Trouble concentrating, problem solving and managing complex tasks
  • Driving difficulties
  • Verbal repetition

STAGE 4: Early-Stage Dementia

Stage 4 is considered early-stage dementia, also called moderate cognitive decline. Symptoms of cognitive decline are apparent, and your loved one should be consulting with a health care professional.

Symptoms of early-stage dementia include:

  • Social withdrawal from family and friends
  • Losing track of the day, date or time
  • Difficulty concentrating, planning or organizing
  • Forgetting recent conversations, names and events
  • Increased irritability and moodiness
  • Difficulty managing expenses or routine tasks
  • Increased forgetfulness and difficulty expressing thoughts

STAGE 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

With Stage 5, signs and symptoms of dementia will become very noticeable. Your loved one’s short-term memory will be mostly lost, and they’ll need more help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and meal preparation. Stage 5 lasts on average one and a half years and will require consistent care for your loved one.

Symptoms of moderately severe cognitive decline include:

  • Memory loss of personal details and current events
  • Difficulties remembering important bits of information, such as their home address or
    phone number
  • Difficulty with activities of daily living
  • Increased aggression and irritability
  • Changes in sleep patterns may begin
  • Difficulty with orientation, such as knowing where they are or what day it is

STAGE 6: Severe Cognitive Decline

In Stage 6 of dementia, a person may start forgetting the names of close loved ones and have little memory of recent events. Communication is severely disabled and delusions, anxiety and agitation may occur. On average, Stage 6 can last around two and half years.

Symptoms of severe cognitive decline include:

  • Severe memory loss
  • Severely diminished ability to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, eating and personal care
  • Difficulty choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
  • Severely diminished communication skills
  • Paranoia, delusions, agitation, anxiety or hallucinations
  • Difficulty sleeping and confusing day and night
  • An increase in wandering or becoming lost
  • Compulsive, repetitive behavior

Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline

In the final stage of dementia, symptoms are severe. A person in this stage usually has no ability to speak or communicate and requires assistance with most activities, including walking. During this stage, caregivers and loved ones will focus mostly on providing comfort and quality of life.

Severe cognitive decline can last up to three years and symptoms include:

  • Loss of communication skills
  • Disorientation, combativeness and physical outbursts
  • The need for full-time help with activities of daily living, including dressing, eating and personal care
  • Loss of physical capabilities, such as walking and sitting
  • Increased vulnerability to infections
  • Difficulty eating and swallowing
  • Considerable weight gain or weight loss

A Trusted Care Partner

Early diagnosis can help your loved one live the most enriching life they can for as long as possible. Coping with the effects of a loved one living with Alzheimer’s and dementia isn’t easy, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Courtyard Memory Care at St. Paul’s supports each resident through our specialized Thrive program. Built around the YOUNITE life history survey, this program incorporates each person’s experiences, physical skills, current interests, hobbies and daily routine into a customized care plan that responds to their physical, mental and spiritual needs.

To learn more about the different stages of dementia and how St. Paul’s senior living community can help ease the symptoms of cognitive decline and empower your loved one to lead an engaging, fulfilling lifestyle, contact us today. We’re here to help.