The Stages of Dementia

When a person is diagnosed with Dementia, their symptoms can range from mild to severe. These symptoms are broadly grouped into stages that help guide doctors and a person’s family in their care. “Usually we think of memory loss as a continuum,” explains Raj C. Shah, MD, medical director of the Rush Memory Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Dementia is defined as chronic memory loss, ultimately affecting quality of life.” A person will progress through this continuum in their own way and there are no specific moments when you will know when your loved one is moving through these stages. However, knowing and understanding the stages of dementia will be helpful to guide the process of providing care. Here are the stages of dementia:




No Impairment: There are no obvious signs of dementia and those with dementia are still able to function independently.




Very Mild: Signs are barely noticeable and forgetfulness may appear to be just associated with aging.




Mild: At this point, your loved one is still able to do basic daily activities, but symptoms may include:



• Memory Loss
• Repetition
• Losing items without being able to retrace steps to find them
• Slight trouble managing finances
• Confusion while driving
• Loss of concentration
• Trouble managing medications




Moderate: Your loved one could have “trouble doing routine tasks that they always did, such as cooking, laundry, or using the phone,” explains Shah. Other symptoms include:




• Trouble holding urine
• Increase in memory loss
• Inability to use or find the right words or phrases
• Difficulty doing challenging math exercises
• Increase in social withdrawal



Moderately Severe: They will need some assistance with their day to day activities. Symptoms include:

• Increase in memory loss, including inability to remember home address, phone number or other personal details
• Confusion about location or chain of events
• Trouble with less challenging mental math exercises
• Needing help to select appropriate clothing for the climate or season



Severe: “Caregivers have to help a lot more with day-to-day activities” at this stage, says Shah. Dementia signs at this stage include:

• Needing help to get dressed
• Help with going to the bathroom
• Wandering and becoming lost if not watched
• Inability to recall the names of family members, but still able to recognize familiar faces
• Sleep disturbances
• Changes in personality or behavior



Very Severe: The final stage of the disease. Symptoms include:

• Loss of language skills
• Loss of awareness of surroundings
• Requiring help to eat
• Lack of control over urination
• Loss of muscle control to smile, swallow, or even walk or sit without support






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