Dementia’s Stages – How the disease progresses

Recently updated on March 14th, 2024 at 12:03 am

Dementia comes in a variety of types, the most prevalent of which is Alzheimer’s disease. Identifying the stage assists doctors in determining the appropriate treatments and facilitates communication between physicians and care providers. Dementia does not follow a series of specific or predictable phases that occur similarly for every individual with dementia. It might be tough to live with and recognize all stages of dementia. However, it could vary based on the brain’s affected part.

Dementia’s Stages How the disease progresses

How long does dementia take to progress?

Dementia is a progressive disease that emerges in the brain from physical abnormalities. It is a condition that becomes worse with time. Dementia progresses quickly for some people, while it takes years for others to reach an advanced state.

How quickly does dementia progress?

RPDs are dementias that proceed rapidly, often from weeks or even months, sometimes up to 2 to 3 years. RPDs are uncommon and generally difficult to detect. Although many causes of RPDs can treat, it’s critical to have a proper diagnosis as soon as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease, for example, advances more slowly than other kinds of dementia. A patient’s age – for example, Alzheimer’s disease progresses more slowly in aged folks (over 65) than that in younger ones (under 65).

Another long-term health issue – Dementia progresses more quickly if the person has other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension, especially if untreated. Delirium is a medical disorder that develops suddenly.

It’s impossible to predict how rapidly someone’s dementia will progress. Several dementia patients will require assistance immediately after their diagnosis. Others, on either hand, will be self-sufficient for several years.

How does dementia progress?

Dementia is a wide term that refers to a number of different conditions. Dementia is caused by various brain illnesses physically, including Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB), and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

Only a tiny portion of the brain is affected in the early stages of all types of dementia. Only the abilities dependent on the injured area of the brain are impacted at this stage. Thus there are fewer symptoms. These early signs and symptoms are usually modest. That’s why the early stages of dementia are mentioned to be ‘mild’ dementia.

In the early stages of dementia, every type of dementia impacts a different part of the brain. As a result, the indications vary according to the type. Loss of memory, for instance, is typical in initial Alzheimer’s but rare in initial FTD.

The indications of the various dementia kinds tend to become even more comparable as dementia develops into the middle and later stages. It’s because when dementia progresses, too much of the brain is impacted.

The illness that causes dementia spreads to certain other sections of the brain over time. As most of the brain cannot function properly, this causes more significant symptoms. Simultaneously, already-damaged brain regions become quite impacted, leading to worsening the person’s existing symptoms.

The disease ultimately causes severe damage to most areas of the brain. It results in significant alterations in memory, reasoning, speech, feelings, personality, and physical difficulties.

How many stages does dementia have?

There are seven stages of dementia progression are:

  • No impairment
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mild decline
  • Moderate decline
  • A moderate, severe decline
  • Severe decline
  • Very severe (or “late”) dementia

    1.    No Impairment

    Although no symptoms occur early, tests may identify an issue. It can take years for any Dementia symptoms or signs to show.

    2.    Forgetfulness

    In dementia’s early stage, a person may forget stuff quickly and easily misplace items around the home, though not to the level where its memory loss can differentiate from average age-related loss of memory.

    3.    Mild decline

    You may observe slight differences and indicators that something ‘is just not right’ as your dementia progresses. They may have a habit of misplacing their pocketbook, keys, or appointments. This stage can span anywhere from seven years to ten years.

    4.    Moderate Decline

    As dementia progresses, the signs and symptoms become more evident to everyone. Your loved one may have trouble managing money, paying bills, or remembering what they ate for breakfast. If they see a doctor at this stage and have an (MMSE) Mini-Mental State Examination, they’ll almost certainly be diagnosed with dementia. The moderate decline stage lasts for about two years on average.

    5.    Moderately Severe Decline

    During the late dementia stage or the progression of dementia, a person needs more assistance with day-to-day activities. While they are likely to be capable of taking care of many other personal requirements (such as going to the bathroom), they may find it very hard to dress appropriately or recall basic information about themselves, like their addresses and phone numbers. However, they usually recognize relatives and friends and can vividly remember incidents from years before (particularly from infancy). On average, the moderately severe decline stage may last up to 1.5 years.

    6.    Severe Decline

    Continual supervision at home is required when it comes to the last or advanced stages of dementia. They may need assistance with bathing and dressing, as well as becoming incontinent. Despite their confusion, they often identify and know the individual dearest to them, which can provide some consolation. Experts estimate dementia timeline at this stage will last about 2.5 years on average.

    7.    Very severe decline

    Many people die before they reach this stage of dementia, frequently as a result of many other health problems. They’ll suffer a serious loss of communication at this point, require aid with daily living and food, and may need round-the-clock supervision and professional caregivers (if they don’t already have this).

    From Mild to More Pronounced Symptoms

    As time goes on, the journey with dementia evolves, and subtle changes become more striking. What once were overlooked moments of forgetfulness burgeon into unmistakable and sometimes alarming signs. Let’s walk through this transformation from the mild initial symptoms to the more pronounced ones that prompt greater concern and intervention.

    Memory Loss: Beyond the Ordinary

    Forgetfulness in early dementia might be as simple as misplacing keys, but as symptoms progress, memory loss can interfere significantly with daily life. It’s not just about forgotten names or faces; it can be missing important dates, struggling to recall personal history, or even failing to recognize familiar surroundings. This level of memory loss is often one of the more visible and impactful signs of dementia progression.

    Communication Difficulties: The Struggle to Express Thoughts

    Communication is fundamental to our connections with others, but dementia can twist and obstruct the pathways of conversation. Those with advancing symptoms might find themselves grappling to find the right words, repeating themselves, or failing to follow along with conversations. It’s not just a loss of words, but the loss of the ability to convey thoughts and feelings—a frustrating barrier for the person with dementia and their loved ones alike.

    Disorientation and Confusion: Losing Track of More Than Time

    The disorientation that may start as simple confusion about the day of the week can escalate to larger, more disconcerting episodes. An individual with advancing dementia might find themselves lost in a once familiar neighborhood, or bewildered about why they entered a room. This isn’t just losing track of time; it’s a profound sense of being lost in one’s own life—a sign that is as distressing as it is telling of the disease’s progression.

    • Mild symptoms such as misplacing items or forgetting names.
    • More obvious memory loss affecting recognition and daily activities.
    • Communication struggles, including difficulty finding the right words.
    • Disorientation and confusion, getting lost in time and space.
    Tanner Gish

    Tanner Gish (Certified Dementia Practitioner, CDP®) is president of Loving Homecare, chapter leader of the Foundation for Senior Services, and community educator on topics relating to home care, aging, dementia, and the relationship between adult children and their aging parents. He is also a Gallup certified Strengths Coach, and he loves empowering the Loving Homecare care team to overcome challenges and to build deeper relationships through Strengths-based coaching. He has his master’s degree in New Testament Theology and bachelor’s degree in International Business from Biola University. Tanner and his wife live in Historic Uptown Whittier, California where both love serving their community, escaping to Northern California to visit their families, and traveling to visit friends living and working overseas as much as possible.

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