Understanding dementia progression is critical for making informed medical and personal decisions about memory care. Recognizing early warning signs can guarantee a diagnosis, so you can analyze common symptoms of moderate and late-stage dementia and prepare for the future. Knowing what to watch out for as you or your family member advances through the dementia phases can help determine when it is time to reassess care needs.
The most common types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, are progressive, which means that cognitive deterioration worsens over time. Dementia is classified as mild, moderate, or severe, as well as an early, middle, or late stage.
Health care providers frequently utilize a more comprehensive method to assess elderly patients' seven stages of dementia. The Global Deterioration Scale (GDS), also known as the Reisberg Scale, was created in 1982 by Dr. Barry Reisberg, a geriatric psychiatrist, and professor.
Typically, people in the first three stages of dementia do not exhibit sufficient symptoms to be diagnosed — while cognitive impairment may exist, stages 1-3 on the GDS are not typically recognized as the early stages of dementia.
While it may seem strange, the lowest stage is normal mental functioning or the absence of cognitive impairment.
As per the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research, at least half of the population 65 and older report experiencing some little age-related forgetfulness. Such minor impairment may go unnoticed by caregivers or medical providers, and it is not indicative of the early stages of dementia.
When memory and cognitive difficulties become more obvious to caregivers and family members, a person is said to have mild cognitive impairment (MCI). It normally has little effect on day-to-day functioning.
How fast does dementia progress in the elderly? According to the National Institute on Aging, eight out of ten people with MCI will develop Alzheimer's disease within seven years. Due to the fact that MCI can precede more severe stages of dementia, it is critical to detect the indicators of this stage and seek medical treatment.
At this time, a person's mental dysfunction is obvious and evident. While it is considered mild or early-stage dementia, the fourth of the seven stages is medically referred to as "moderate cognitive decline."
Doctors and caregivers will almost certainly note an escalation of stage 3 dementia symptoms, including difficulties with language, problem-solving, and travel.
This stage indicates the commencement of what many professionals refer to as the "mid-stage" of dementia's seven stages.
At this point, an individual may be unable to do routine activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing or bathing, without the support of a caregiver. They recall basic details about themselves — like their name and their children's names — but may forget the names of their grandchildren, their long-term address, or where they attended high school.
Stage 6 indicates the need for caregiver assistance with routine daily activities such as dressing, eating, grooming, and other self-care. Seniors with late-stage dementia may struggle with sleep regulation, social interaction, and proper behavior in public settings.
Individuals with severe Alzheimer's disease or late-stage dementia are essentially incapable of caring for themselves. In general, all verbal capacity is gone, and ambulation and movement are significantly hindered. By the end of the seven stages of dementia, physical processes such as chewing, swallowing, and breathing may have deteriorated.
When a senior should seek memory care will vary according to their dementia symptoms, health status, and living situation, among other factors. Explore your family's memory care and dementia home care choices. For more info on how to cope with dementia, check out Senior Strong’s article regarding the topic.
William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.