Aging brings with it physical, cognitive, and emotional changes. Among those cognitive changes, there are some memory changes that are quite normal. This is partly due to decreases in processing speed that happen with advancing age. It makes the brain less efficient and less adept at both putting things into long-term memory and retrieving the information that is already in long-term memory.
When memory changes are more extreme, and other cognitive declines include confusion, disorientation, and poor judgment, then dementia may be cause. Getting this diagnosis from a doctor can be scary for anyone and their loved ones. It can be difficult to know what to expect. Typically, dementia follows seven stages and today’s treatments may delay the progression through the stages.
Learn more about the seven stages of dementia and the symptoms that occur in each timeframe:
Stage 1: No Noticeable Cognitive Decline
During the first stage of dementia, there is no noticeable change. The person seems to be functioning normally, with no significant memory loss. People at this stage are not thought of as having dementia and technically, anyone who does not have dementia is considered to be in stage one.
Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline
In the second stage of dementia, the person may exhibit what seems to be normal, age-related, forgetfulness. This could include forgetting where they have left an object, forgetting an appointment time, or forgetting the name of a new person. This forgetfulness would have little impact on their life.
Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Decline
This stage includes increased forgetfulness and some difficulty concentrating. Such symptoms may also start to affect a person’s performance at work. As this stage progresses, the person may find themselves having difficulty remembering words and they may get lost quite easily.
Stage 4: Moderate Cognitive Decline
During stage four, an individual will have more significant difficulties with concentration. Their memory will also continue to decline, especially showing a loss of memory for recent events. They may struggle to complete complex tasks. At this point, the person may have some denial about their problems.
Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline
A person in stage five will have significant memory deficiencies. Personal details (such as a home address) may be difficult to recall. At this point, the memory problems may even affect the ability to engage in daily activities (for example, forgetting to bathe or dress). They may also forget what day it is.
Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Decline
During stage six, a person’s memory will become so faulty that they will frequently forget to engage in necessary daily activities. This will make them unable to live on their own. At this point, they will need extensive assistance from family members or professional caregivers.
Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline
At this most severe stage of dementia, people lose all or nearly all their functioning, including their psychomotor skills and even their ability to speak. Given that people are entirely dependent on others for care at this point, and that it is difficult to determine their needs, professional care is recommended.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Dementia can be a difficult and scary condition. Although people tend to follow the above seven stages of dementia as they age, it can be difficult to know how a specific person may fare. A person’s prognosis is often based on personal factors related to genetics and health. Given the uncertainty, many people opt into professional care, such assisted living or memory care, early in the process, so that they can get the care they need. It can put your mind at ease to know you or your loved one will be well-cared for.