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Senior man with dementia with adult daughter caregiver

What Are the 7 Stages of Dementia?

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What Are the 7 Stages of Dementia? Be Prepared for Early, Middle, and Late Stage Dementia Symptoms

Lately, you find that you’re becoming more and more forgetful. 

Not only can you not remember where you left your car keys, but you’re starting to have trouble recalling recent memories and the names of loved ones.

You know that cognitive decline can happen as you age, but are you showing signs of dementia?

By becoming aware of the symptoms of the cognitive illness, you can recognize dementia in you or a loved one as early as possible.

Learn about the seven stages of dementia and which symptoms present themselves during early, middle, and late dementia here.

Table of Contents

What Is Dementia?

Dementia comes in many different forms and affects the cognitive functioning of a person as they age including their …

  • Thinking

  • Remembering; and

  • Reasoning

… to the point where it interferes with their daily life.

Most commonly, dementia affects older people. Approximately one-third of people over 85 years old have some form of dementia. However, it is not considered a normal part of growing old.

Being aware of the various signs and symptoms of dementia can help you quickly identify if you or a loved one may become affected by this cognitive illness.

What Are the Seven Stages of Dementia?

Dementia is most often diagnosed using a global scale that assesses the varying stages of memory loss and the ability of the brain to function properly. 

If you’re wondering “what are the 7 stages of vascular dementia?”, or most other forms of dementia, there is a general way to find out.

This scale, the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia (GDS), identifies the seven stages of dementia and has proven to be the most useful test for specifically diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. It can be helpful for other forms of dementia diagnoses as well.

If you or someone you love is suffering from dementia, you might consider moving them to an assisted living facility. Senior Services of America operates independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities in many locations.

Stage 1: No Cognitive Decline

Stage 1 is extremely mild and really undetectable. There are no signs of memory loss, poor cognitive functions, or unusual behaviors.

Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline

During stage 2, slow cognitive decline typically begins. However, the symptoms may not be obvious to anyone other than the person experiencing them.

In stage 2, the most common symptom is forgetfulness, which might be easy to ignore as a symptom of dementia.

Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Decline

In this stage, cognitive decline becomes more noticeable to both the person experiencing symptoms and outsiders.

In stage 3, common symptoms include:

  • Forgetfulness

  • Decreased work performance

  • Difficulty speaking

  • Difficulty focusing on normal tasks

Stage 4: Early-Stage, Moderate Decline Dementia

Stage 4 is well-known as “early dementia”, marked by the onset of moderate cognitive decline.

Most often, patients experience stage 4 symptoms for as long as two years.

“Early dementia” symptoms include:

  • Clear signs of forgetfulness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Easily losing track of time and place

  • Difficulty managing finances

  • Afraid of being alone, traveling, new places/things

  • Difficulty in social situations

  • Withdrawing from family/friends

Stage 5: Mid-Stage, Moderately Severe Dementia

Stage 5 is known as “middle dementia” where the symptoms are easily identified. Patients in “middle dementia” require full-time assistance to complete daily living activities.

As “middle dementia” approaches, patients and loved ones might consider moving to a memory care living facility to ensure proper care and that cognitive needs are being met.

A major symptom of “middle dementia” is the loss of short-term memory.

Stage 6: Mid-Stage, Severe Dementia

During stage 6, the symptoms of “middle dementia” begin to worsen. The person suffering may begin to:

  • Forget names of close friends and family

  • Have trouble recalling recent events

  • Experience delusions, compulsions, anxiety, or agitation

  • Experience frequent and intense personality or emotional changes

  • Have difficulty speaking or communicating

  • Lose bladder control

Stage 7: Late-Stage, Very Severe Dementia

Stage 7 is considered “late dementia” and is identified by a severe cognitive decline. 

Patients in “late dementia” need around-the-clock care because they cannot complete simple daily tasks, like communicating or walking, on their own. 

If assisted living or memory care has not already been established, caregivers should consider looking into the available options.

Senior Services of America has many assisted and memory care communities available. The trained staff is knowledgeable and committed to doing everything possible for the comfort and care of their patients.

How Long Do the 7 Stages of Dementia Last?

If you’re wondering “how long do the 7 stages of dementia last?”, there is no clear-cut answer. 

The beginning stages (stage 1 and stage 2) are difficult to identify for the average person, so that makes it harder to pinpoint an expected duration of these stages.

However, once “early dementia” hits, patients tend to stay in each stage for about two years before progressing to the next one. 

Some stages can last a little longer (stage 3 can last up to 7 years) while others might be a bit shorter (stage 6 can last around a year or less).

How Quickly Does Dementia Usually Progress?

There are 7 signs of dementia and each stage where signs present themselves can last for different lengths of time. 

Symptoms could progress differently from patient to patient.

Once “early dementia” hits and loss of cognitive function becomes more noticeable, it becomes easier to identify how quickly dementia might progress.

How Are the Stages of Dementia Measured?

The stages of dementia can be measured using a few different scales as previously mentioned.

Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia (GDS): GDS is the most commonly used scale to measure dementia. Although it can successfully measure different forms of dementia, it is most accurate for Alzheimer’s disease.

The GDS, or Reisberg Scale, uses seven stages based on cognitive decline to help navigate a patient as they move through the different stages of dementia.

Functional Assessment Staging Test (FAST): A seven-stage scale that focuses more on a patient’s functioning and ability to perform daily tasks rather than their cognitive decline.

A patient could be at different stages using both the GDS and FAST scales.

Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR): CDR is a 5-point system that measures both cognitive ability and daily functionality. 

This system evaluates 6 different areas …

  1. Memory

  2. Orientation

  3. Judgment and problem solving

  4. Community affairs

  5. Home and hobbies

  6. Personal care

… before assigning one of the 5 stages to the patient.

How Are the Stages of Dementia Diagnosed?

During an evaluation process, doctors perform various tests to determine if a patient is suffering from dementia. These different tests include:

  • Cognitive tests: Different cognitive tests are available, like the General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition (GPCOG) screening and the Mini-Cog 3-minute test. Also available are the Eight-item Informant Interview to Differentiate Aging and Dementia (AD8) and the Short Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE).

  • Neurological Evaluations: During this evaluation, doctors might perform a brain imaging study, like an MRI or CT scan. They will also check different functions including:

    • Balance

    • Coordination

    • Muscle tone and strength

    • Eye movement

    • Sensory

    • Reflexes

    • Speech 

  • Laboratory Testing: To help diagnose dementia and rule out other conditions, laboratory tests can be helpful. Laboratory tests usually include:

    • Complete blood count

    • Blood glucose

    • Urinalysis

    • Toxicology screening

    • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis

    • Analysis of thyroid

  • Brain Scans: Cortisol atrophy is common in patients with dementia. This progressive loss of neurons causes the brain to appear thinner and wider as brain cells die and ventricles expand to fill the space. Doctors can identify this by performing computed tomographic (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

  • Psychiatric Evaluation: Psychiatric evaluations are normally done to determine if a patient has depression or other psychiatric disorders that could be contributing to their symptoms of dementia. 

A 2016 study has shown that:

  • A majority of patients with dementia also experience mood, behavior, and perception disturbances.

  • Patients with schizophrenia develop dementia later in life.

  • Depression could be associated with cognitive decline.

  • Alzheimer’s disease presents many psychiatric symptoms.

How to Care for Loved Ones With Dementia

Do you have a loved one with dementia? 

If so, you might be wondering what you can do to provide the best care possible for them.

Each stage of dementia comes with different symptoms and therefore patients will have different needs as they progress through from “early dementia” where symptoms are mild, to “late dementia” where the symptoms are more severe.

Caregiving During the Early Stages

During the early stages of dementia, patients typically experience very mild symptoms. Because most people continue to function independently, the symptoms may not even be noticeable in the very beginning. 

As dementia progresses through the early stages, patients likely experience:

  • Mild forgetfulness

  • Difficulty staying on task and focusing

As a caregiver, you can simply provide support and companionship. You might also consider beginning to make plans for the future as the disease progresses.

Caregiving During the Middle Stages

As cognitive function begins to decline in a more obvious way, patients could show symptoms like:

  • More forgetfulness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Easily losing track of time or whereabouts

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

  • Being scared of being alone or in new places

If a patient is still living at home or is in an independent or assisted living community, you might consider the beginning steps of moving them to a memory care facility.

As a caregiver, you might recognize that the patient:

  • Needs more help completing daily tasks

  • Is becoming less independent; and 

  • Needs frequent reminders

While you search for a memory care facility, continue to provide love, support, and companionship as needed.

Caregiving During the Late Stages

As patients continue to lose both cognitive and functional abilities in the later stages of dementia, they inevitably become less active. Because they are less active, they require less food and might not have an appetite or might simply forget to eat.

As a caregiver, it is important to make sure the patient is eating healthy and nourishing foods. If necessary, adapt foods to make it easier for the patient to swallow and digest.

Caregivers should also continue to provide comfort, love, support, and companionship as necessary.

Senior Services of America: Memory Care Facilities for Every Stage of Dementia

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it may be time to consider moving to an assisted living facility. 

How do you know if assisted living or memory care is the right move?

Senior Services of America can help you determine which level of care is best. Our team is equipped with the knowledge and skills to help you make the right choice for yourself and your loved ones.

Senior Services of America has communities that provide independent living, assisted living, and memory care. These different care communities can help you through the varying stages of dementia.

Our team is equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to help ensure that you are receiving the daily support that you need. As your symptoms change, so does our care. 

No matter where you are with your dementia, Senior Services of America has a community with team members that are ready to help. Find your nearest community today.

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Senior Services of America

800-689-0493

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