Dementia is not an all-or-nothing disease – it progresses over time, adding more and more levels of complication as time passes. While there is no cure for dementia, it is possible to treat it and slow its effects if it’s caught early enough. Knowing the different stages of dementia can help you support your loved one appropriately and prepare for the right level of care when it’s needed. The following is an explanation of the six stages of dementia, including the significant changes and milestones you should be aware of for your loved one:
Stage 1: Early Cognitive Decline
The first stage of dementia is sometimes masked by the typical signs of aging. There may be some forgetfulness and a slight decline in cognitive functions, but for the most part, someone in this stage of dementia can still function independently. You’ll want to encourage your loved one to visit the doctor regularly for check-ups to ensure the physician is aware of the situation.
Stage 2: Mild Cognitive Decline
The symptoms of dementia will become clearer during this stage as forgetfulness becomes more prevalent and your loved one has more trouble performing everyday tasks, like driving or problem-solving. This is usually the stage where you’ll also notice your loved one misplacing items, like putting a purse in the refrigerator or car keys in a medicine cabinet without even realizing it. It’s a good idea to begin looking at dementia care options during this stage.
Stage 3: Moderate Cognitive Decline
At this point in the journey, your loved one will need assistance in just about every area—it’s no longer safe for them to drive or manage finances alone. Their dementia symptoms will be very clear in this stage, and you may want to look into assisted living communities that specialize in dementia care.
Stage 4: Mid-Stage Dementia
Short-term memory is nearly gone by this stage, and your loved one will need help with all activities of daily living: eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring and continence. A live-in aide or dementia-specialized assisted living community is critical during this stage.
Stage 5: Severe Dementia
During this stage, you’ll notice that your loved one has forgotten names of close family members and will have no short-term memory. They will also start losing their ability to communicate and suffer from anxiety, depression and compulsions. If they’re still in the home or at an assisted living community, it’s probably time to determine how to move your loved one into a specialized memory care or skilled care center.
Stage 6: End-Stage Dementia
A person in end-stage dementia will likely not have any control over their activities and will need significant assistance in communicating, walking and performing all activities of daily living. Round-the-clock care is required at this point, and caregivers often seek to give comfort and improve their loved one’s quality of life at this time.
If you have more questions about helping to care for a loved one suffering from dementia, or if you believe your loved one is ready for a higher level of care and need advice, please contact our Ohio elder law office at 877-653-3450 to schedule a complimentary initial consultation.