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A Guide to Dementia Stages

A Guide to Dementia Stages

If you have a friend or family member suffering the effects of dementia, it can be very frustrating and you may seem helpless against its effects, but you should prepare yourself that the condition will probably get worse over time.  In this article we will provide a brief definition of dementia and introduce you to the 7 dementia stages you can typically expect.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a progressive illness characterized by a loss of memory, reasoning and the inability to perform certain cognitive functions—functions most of us take for granted.  Dementia sufferers may eventually lose the ability to perform everyday activities such as driving, certain household tasks and even their own personal care such as dressing, eating and personal hygiene activities.

In the United States alone, dementia currently affects over 5 million people, particularly men and women aged 65 or older, and the condition appears to become more prevalent as seniors in this group continue to age.  People suffering from dementia usually experience a drastic reduction in ability, most noticed in areas such as language, numbers, problem solving and abstract thinking.  Dementia is one of the most prevalent causes for both hospitalization and mortality among the elderly population in the United States.

The 7 Dementia Stages

According to medical experts, the condition known as dementia can be divided into seven concrete stages, much as Alzheimer’s disease can.  The following is a brief description of those seven stages.

Dementia Stages:  Stage 1

As expected, stage one is when the patient has no noticeable sign of impairment, and no significant memory loss.  At this point, the patient is experiencing none of the classic dementia symptoms.

Dementia Stages:  Stage 2

In stage 2 of dementia, patients may begin to experience very mild memory loss.  They may start to forget familiar words, the names of their friends or where they placed their keys, watch or glasses.  At this stage, those close to the dementia patient may begin to notice the patient’s memory struggles.

Dementia Stages:  Stage 3

When people start experiencing the symptoms of stage 3, it is at this point that a medical diagnosis of dementia is usually rendered.  Some of the benchmark symptoms for a medical dementia diagnosis include:

  • Difficulty remembering familiar words or names
  • Can’t remember the names of people newly introduced to them
  • A difficulty in basic cognitive performance is easily recognized by those close to the patient
  • Trouble retaining written information
  • Constantly misplaces items and can’t remember where they put them
  • Organizational difficulties

Dementia Stages:  Stage 4

Stage 4 is characterized by a mild cognitive decline, represented by the following symptoms:

  • Failure to remember or recollect recent events
  • Difficulty with mildly challenging arithmetic functions
  • Difficulty organizing complex tasks, such as planning a meeting or birthday party
  • Demonstrates  a withdrawn personality in challenging situations

Dementia Stages:  Stage 5

In stage 5 the difficulties in cognitive functioning become more severe, with major gaps in memory.  The patient may need help in performing regular everyday activities such as personal care and will exhibit at least some of the following deficits:

  • Cannot recall very familiar facts and events such as their own address or names of distant family members
  • Demonstrates confusion even in familiar places
  • Has trouble remembering the current date or their own telephone number
  • Trouble with even less challenging mathematical operations
  • Needs help choosing appropriate clothing
  • Patient at this stage can still remember their own name, names of spouse and children and can still eat and use the bathroom unassisted

Dementia Stages:  Stage 6

In stage 6 dementia, the patient will experience a severe decline in both memory and cognitive function, demonstrated by the following characteristics:

  • The patient may lose track of very recent events and experiences
  • Needs consistent help to dress appropriately
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Help with certain toileting tasks
  • Increased incidence of incontinence
  • Changes in behavior, including paranoid or delusional thoughts
  • Patient may tend to get lost or wander away from home

Dementia Stages:  Stage 7

In stage 7 of dementia the patient will experience a very severe cognitive decline and may become completely out of touch with the outside world.  In this stage, the patient’s memory is almost nonexistent and he/she will need significant help with all everyday activities.  In time, the patient may even lose the ability to sit or stand on their own and the condition can eventually result in death.

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