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How Fast Does Dementia Progress In The Elderly?

September 29, 2023

As you may know, dementia is a general term for a group of cognitive disorders that affect memory, cognitive functioning, and communication skills. 

The way that dementia progresses for your loved one can feel different from day to day, but typically, it will progress either somewhat rapidly over the course of a few months or more slowly over the course of years. 

Generally, we break up the stages of dementia into three general buckets: early, moderate, and advanced dementia. Each comes with its own levels of cognitive ability and need for care.  The progression of dementia in the elderly depends on a few different things, such as the type of dementia and their overall health and lifestyle—but sometimes can truly feel quite random. 

In this blog, we’ll cover common questions surrounding memory care, memory loss and rapid-onset dementia.

What Is Rapid-Onset Dementia?

Rapid-onset dementia, also known as rapidly progressive dementia or sudden onset dementia, is a kind of dementia where cognitive decline happens at an unusually fast pace compared to other types of dementia. Individuals experiencing rapid-onset dementia usually go through a sudden worsening of dementia symptoms, including significant functional and cognitive decline, within a relatively short period of time.

How Quickly Does Rapid Dementia Progress?

While most types of dementia affect patients over a number of years, rapid-onset dementia progresses more quickly. It can sometimes cause major effects in affected individuals in just weeks or months. However, it sometimes progresses slightly less rapidly, taking up to two or three years in its advancement. 

What Can Cause Rapid-Onset Dementia?

Rapid-onset dementia can be caused by many different things, including brain disorders, underlying medical conditions, other neurological issues, or even infections. Some other potential causes include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, autoimmune encephalitis, certain kinds of strokes, and metabolic disturbances. 

When rapid-onset dementia is suspected, it is recommended that the dementia patient undergo medical evaluation by healthcare professionals such as neurologists and geriatric specialists in order to determine the cause and give guidance on appropriate treatment options.

What Causes Dementia to Progress Quickly?

While dementia typically progresses gradually over time, sometimes the progression can move faster than expected. A few factors that can contribute to dementia progressing more quickly than usual include:

  • Underlying causes
  • Type of dementia (different types of dementia have differing rates of progression)
  • Age and health 
  • Vascular factors 
  • Medical conditions
  • Medication interactions
  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle factors (e.g., inadequate nutrition or poorly managed chronic conditions can contribute to faster decline)
  • Response to treatment 
  • Individual variability

We should note here that while the progression of dementia can be highly individual, early diagnosis and interventions, such as medication, cognitive exercises, and lifestyle adjustments, can help manage symptoms and slow the progression to some extent.

At What Stage Do Dementia Patients Forget Family Members?

There’s no exact timeline for when dementia patients are most likely to forget important individuals in their lives, such as family members, as the different stages of dementia, bring out different symptoms, and individuals experience memory loss on their own timelines.

It can be very difficult for family members to watch your loved one start to lose their memory or confuse people’s faces and names. As it’s possible, it’s important to try and plan ahead with them, discussing their preferred care options and financial choices before having to prepare for progressive stages and considering professional care.

How Story Cottage Can Help

If you’re looking for compassionate support and care for a loved one struggling with progressive dementia symptoms, you’ve come to the right place. Schedule a visit at our two beautiful locations in Indianapolis and Carmel to see our innovative solutions for yourself, or contact us today to learn more.