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7 Stages of Dementia Before Death

November 10, 2023

In order to assess the progression of dementia in an individual, most healthcare professionals rely on one of two scales.

The Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) is a reliable tool for assessing degenerative dementia, consisting of seven stages that measure cognitive decline. There is also the Functional Assessment Staging Test (FAST), which breaks dementia down into seven stages and substages denoted by letters and pertaining to certain behaviors.

In this blog, we’ll explain more about the seven stages of dementia, the life expectancy for each stage, and how memory care can help those experiencing this life-altering disease and their family members.

What Are the 7 Stages of Dementia?

The Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) classifies dementia into seven stages, ranging from no to very severe cognitive decline. Let's go over the seven stages of degenerative dementia, as laid out by the GDS.

No Cognitive Decline

No memory deficit or impairment is evident.

Very Mild Cognitive Decline

Individuals will start forgetting simple things, typically in the areas of locations of objects and familiar names.

Mild Cognitive Decline

These are the earliest clear-cut memory deficits and are often noticed in patients getting lost more frequently, underperforming at work, struggling with name recall, and having difficulty concentrating.

Moderate Cognitive Decline

Memory impairment becomes very evident, especially in regard to current events, personal history, and increased difficulty handling things like travel and personal finances. This stage also often comes with increased denial and withdrawal from difficult situations.

Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

Patients will need some assistance in their day-to-day activities, experience disorientation, and be unable to recall significant aspects of their lives (such as their high school or phone number).

Severe Cognitive Decline

They will struggle to recall recent life events as well as the names of those close to them. They may experience more defensive or delusional behavior.

Very Severe Cognitive Decline.

Very little remaining verbal and cognitive abilities remain. Dementia patients at this stage will rely fully on others for their care and activities of daily living (ADLs).

How Long Do the 7 Stages of Dementia Last?

Individuals experience the seven dementia stages differently. Some patients progress through dementia symptoms extremely quickly, especially when experiencing rapid-onset dementia. Others’ conditions will worsen slowly over time. The stages, while helpful for classification purposes, are still only approximations of an individual’s severity of dementia. Therefore, it can sometimes feel like a patient is getting better one day and worse the next. Let’s answer a few more questions about how long each stage of dementia affects individuals.

Which Stage of Dementia Is the Longest in Duration?

Typically, the early stages of dementia are the longest in duration. At the onset of dementia, individuals will experience mild memory decline, with symptoms sometimes being subtle and hard to detect. The early stages can last for several years, and dementia patients experiencing only mild cognitive degeneration are usually still able to care for themselves and remain independent during this time.

How Long Does Stage 6 Dementia Last?

Individuals usually spend one to two years in the sixth stage of dementia, also known as severe cognitive decline. This stage is marked by profound cognitive and functional impairment and is often accompanied by significant personality changes. Dementia patients in stage six typically need full-time assistance from this point until the end of their lives.

How Long Does the Final Stage of Dementia Last?

The final stage of dementia, often referred to as very severe cognitive decline, can last from a few months to a few years. In this stage, individuals experience severe decline, their care needs become increasingly complex, and they rely completely on care from others. In the last stage of dementia, individuals are especially susceptible to complications, infections, and malnutrition as their functioning continues to deteriorate.

How Long Before Dementia Is Fatal?

While dementia itself is not a direct cause of death, it does often lead to degeneration, complications, and vulnerabilities that shorten the lifespan of those affected. The dementia timeline to fatality depends on many factors, such as the following:

  • The type of dementia
  • The patient’s overall health and underlying medical conditions
  • The level of care an individual is able to receive

As cognitive and functional decline progresses in dementia patients, they become more susceptible to complications such as pneumonia, infections, dehydration, malnutrition, and general frailty. Each individual’s timeline will differ, however, with some patients living for a decade or longer after diagnosis and others experiencing rapid decline within months or years.

How Memory Care Helps Dementia Patients in Each Stage

Across every stage of dementia, there is a place for memory care. In the earliest stages, most individuals will be able to maintain their independence and only suffer mild cognitive decline. However, early diagnosis and personalized memory care plans can be extremely helpful for both dementia patients and their families.

Throughout the middle stages, patients can benefit from the structured cognitive support, routines and activities, and security and supervision that memory care homes offer.

Finally, in the stages of dementia closest to the end of one’s life, the trained staff at memory care homes can assist patients who are fully reliant on others for their care and help them live out their days in a comfortable, dignified, and fulfilling way in private care homes.

How Story Cottage Can Help

Are you looking for caring, compassionate support for a loved one struggling with memory loss?

Schedule a visit to Story Cottage Carey Grovel, Story Cottage Meridian Hills, or Story Cottage West Clay to see our innovative solutions and comfortable homes. Contact us today to learn more!

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In order to assess the progression of dementia in an individual, most healthcare professionals rely on one of two scales.

The Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) is a reliable tool for assessing degenerative dementia, consisting of seven stages that measure cognitive decline. There is also the Functional Assessment Staging Test (FAST), which breaks dementia down into seven stages and substages denoted by letters and pertaining to certain behaviors. Both of these tools provide valuable insights into the progression of the disease, helping to tailor care and support at each stage.

In this expanded blog, we’ll delve deeper into the seven stages of dementia as outlined by the GDS, providing a more detailed look at each stage, including specific symptoms and their impact on daily life. We'll also touch on the importance of early detection, management strategies for each stage, and how these vary depending on the individual's needs. Furthermore, we will explore the emotional and practical impact on family members and caregivers, offering guidance on coping strategies and support networks.

Additionally, we’ll discuss the life expectancy associated with each stage, the significance of legal and financial planning in the early stages, and how memory care can help those experiencing this life-altering disease and their family members. We'll also highlight the importance of alternative therapies and activities that can aid in maintaining cognitive function or improving quality of life.

Understanding dementia is crucial not just for those diagnosed with it, but also for their loved ones and caregivers. Let’s embark on this journey to gain a deeper insight into each stage of dementia and the comprehensive care required throughout this challenging journey.

What Are the 7 Stages of Dementia?

The Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) classifies dementia into seven stages, ranging from no to very severe cognitive decline. Let's go over the seven stages of degenerative dementia, as laid out by the GDS.

What Are the 7 Stages of Dementia

No Cognitive Decline

No memory deficit or impairment is evident.

Very Mild Cognitive Decline

Individuals will start forgetting simple things, typically in the areas of locations of objects and familiar names.

Mild Cognitive Decline

These are the earliest clear-cut memory deficits and are often noticed in patients getting lost more frequently, underperforming at work, struggling with name recall, and having difficulty concentrating. 

Moderate Cognitive Decline

Memory impairment becomes very evident, especially in regard to current events, personal history, and increased difficulty handling things like travel and personal finances. This stage also often comes with increased denial and withdrawal from difficult situations.

Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

Patients will need some assistance in their day-to-day activities, experience disorientation, and be unable to recall significant aspects of their lives (such as their high school or phone number). 

Severe Cognitive Decline

They will struggle to recall recent life events as well as the names of those close to them. They may experience more defensive or delusional behavior.

Very Severe Cognitive Decline.

Very little remaining verbal and cognitive abilities remain. Dementia patients at this stage will rely fully on others for their care and activities of daily living (ADLs).

How Long Do the 7 Stages of Dementia Last?

Individuals experience the seven dementia stages differently. Some patients progress through dementia symptoms extremely quickly, especially when experiencing rapid-onset dementia. Others’ conditions will worsen slowly over time. The stages, while helpful for classification purposes, are still only approximations of an individual’s severity of dementia. Therefore, it can sometimes feel like a patient is getting better one day and worse the next. Let’s answer a few more questions about how long each stage of dementia affects individuals.

Which Stage of Dementia Is the Longest in Duration?

Typically, the early stages of dementia are the longest in duration. At the onset of dementia, individuals will experience mild memory decline, with symptoms sometimes being subtle and hard to detect. The early stages can last for several years, and dementia patients experiencing only mild cognitive degeneration are usually still able to care for themselves and remain independent during this time.

How Long Does Stage 6 Dementia Last?

Individuals usually spend one to two years in the sixth stage of dementia, also known as severe cognitive decline. This stage is marked by profound cognitive and functional impairment and is often accompanied by significant personality changes. Dementia patients in stage six typically need full-time assistance from this point until the end of their lives.

How Long Does the Final Stage of Dementia Last?

The final stage of dementia, often referred to as very severe cognitive decline, can last from a few months to a few years. In this stage, individuals experience severe decline, their care needs become increasingly complex, and they rely completely on care from others. In the last stage of dementia, individuals are especially susceptible to complications, infections, and malnutrition as their functioning continues to deteriorate. 

How Long Before Dementia Is Fatal?

While dementia itself is not a direct cause of death, it does often lead to degeneration, complications, and vulnerabilities that shorten the lifespan of those affected. The dementia timeline to fatality depends on many factors, such as the following:

  • The type of dementia
  • The patient’s overall health and underlying medical conditions
  • The level of care an individual is able to receive

As cognitive and functional decline progresses in dementia patients, they become more susceptible to complications such as pneumonia, infections, dehydration, malnutrition, and general frailty. Each individual’s timeline will differ, however, with some patients living for a decade or longer after diagnosis and others experiencing rapid decline within months or years.

The Dementia Timeline to Fatality Depends on Many Factors-

How Memory Care Helps Dementia Patients in Each Stage

Across every stage of dementia, there is a place for memory care. In the earliest stages, most individuals will be able to maintain their independence and only suffer mild cognitive decline. However, early diagnosis and personalized memory care plans can be extremely helpful for both dementia patients and their families. 

Throughout the middle stages, patients can benefit from the structured cognitive support, routines and activities, and security and supervision that memory care homes offer.

Finally, in the stages of dementia closest to the end of one’s life, the trained staff at memory care homes can assist patients who are fully reliant on others for their care and help them live out their days in a comfortable, dignified, and fulfilling way in private care homes. 

How Story Cottage Can Help

Are you looking for caring, compassionate support for a loved one struggling with memory loss? 

Schedule a visit to Story Cottage Carey Grovel, Story Cottage Meridian Hills, or Story Cottage West Clay to see our innovative solutions and comfortable homes. Contact us today to learn more!

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