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How Can You Tell What Stage of Dementia a Person Is In?

November 2, 2023

Medical professionals, neurologists, geriatricians, or other memory care specialists are typically responsible for determining the stage of dementia that an individual is experiencing. There are many factors they use to ascertain an individual’s stage, usually including a clinical assessment, interviews and observations, and medical, cognitive, and functional testing.

Upon reviewing the results of those tests, healthcare professionals can generally gauge where the dementia progression in a patient has taken them to and whether it’s in the early, middle, or late stage.

 In this blog, we’ll discuss the stages of dementia, explain typical symptoms seen within each, and answer common questions regarding dementia progression to help provide clarity to you and your loved ones. 

What Are the Stages of Dementia?

To better understand how most individuals experience dementia, let’s walk through a progressive dementia stages timeline. There are generally considered to be 7 stages of dementia:

  1. No impairment. While dementia patients at this stage will not show symptoms, cognitive and behavioral assessments may reveal a problem.
  2. Very mild decline. At the very beginning of dementia, you may notice some slight changes in behavior.
  3. Mild decline. There will be more changes in your loved one’s reasoning and memory, and they may repeat themselves more than they used to.
  4. Moderate decline. They will struggle more with making plans and remembering recent events.
  5. Moderately severe decline. This stage is marked by an increasing reliance on caregivers and support. Here is where dementia patients may begin to forget or confuse family members.
  6. Severe decline. They will begin to forget the people closest to them, rely heavily on external support, and struggle heavily with memory and cognitive functioning, as well as, often, mobility. This is one of the last stages of dementia before death.
  7. Very severe decline. At this point in the condition, patients will likely spend most of their time in bed and completely under someone else’s care.

Which Stage of Dementia Is the Longest in Duration?

How long individuals experience each stage of dementia will vary widely from person to person. In many cases, the middle or moderate stage of dementia tends to last the longest, typically across many years. Continuing to invest in dementia patients’ overall health, happiness, and mental and social stimulation can do wonders for keeping them feeling supported as their condition progresses. 

What Stage of Dementia Is Sundowning?

Sundowning is a common behavioral symptom seen in dementia patients across all stages. It is characterized by increased agitation, confusion, and restlessness, especially in the late afternoon, evening, or night. We don’t have a full understanding of why sundowning happens, but it may have to do with changes happening to an individual’s cognitive ability, sensory stimulation, comfort levels, and internal body clock. 

What Stage of Dementia Is Not Sleeping?
Sleep disturbances in dementia patients, such as insomnia, sleepwalking, and waking up in the middle of the night, can also occur at any point in the disease’s progression. It is important to address sleeping issues that your loved one is facing because not doing so can worsen their overall condition and daytime functioning.

What Stage of Dementia Is Anger?

Anger, too, can happen across various stages of dementia, although it often rears its head most in the middle and late stages. It is understandably displeasing to dementia patients to undergo such intense changes, cognitive and otherwise. Thankfully, there are some strategies for managing patient aggression and agitation. Behavioral interventions, environmental modifications, medication, and getting to the underlying causes of anger can be helpful, for example.

How Long Does the Aggressive Stage of Dementia Last?

The duration of a dementia patient’s aggressive stage can also vary significantly across individuals. For some people, this stage may be relatively short, lasting several weeks or months, while for others, it may persist for a longer period. Either way, it is helpful to develop a plan tailored to your loved one to assist both them and their caregiver(s) through this phase.

How Do You Know What Stage of Dementia Someone Is in?

To determine what stage of dementia your loved one is in, you should consult a medical professional or geriatrician to get a sound opinion. These healthcare professionals will typically run tests, such as a clinical assessment (the most common one being the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale), to evaluate their level of cognitive functioning and degree of independence. They will also often use a combination of interviews, behavioral observations, medical tests, and functional assessments to gauge the level of mental and personal functioning that an individual is capable of.

How Story Cottage Can Help

Whatever stage of dementia your loved one is experiencing, Story Cottage’s unique approach to memory care could be the help you’ve been looking for. Schedule a visit at our two beautiful locations in Indianapolis and Carmel and learn more about our locations and how we can assist your loved ones through their memory loss, contact us today.