Dementia is a word that everyone has heard, and most people have some idea of what it entails. However, dementia is much more complicated than many people may think. Further, its progression can be quite gradual, leading caregivers to err when it comes to recognizing it and understanding how it works. Now there is a Global Deterioration Scale that allows families to understand where a loved one is at on the continuum of dementia, broken down into seven stages. Here are the seven stages of dementia, and some tips on recognizing them.
Stage one: No Noticeable Impairment
The first stage of dementia is characterized by the fact that it is generally not noticeable. Your loved one with stage one dementia will still be able to function normally and live a life unaffected by the condition.
Stage two: Very Mild Cognitive Impairment
As the condition progresses, your loved one will display very mild signs of forgetfulness, such as misplacing items. This stage is tricky because it is still mild enough that one may easily assume the signs to be just the normal amount of forgetfulness that is often connected to aging.
It should be noted here that some amount of forgetfulness is extremely common as a person ages. Simply because your loved one has developed a tendency to forget minor matters does not necessarily mean that he or she is developing dementia.
Stage three: Mild Impairment
An elderly person in stage three will begin to demonstrate more serious signs of cognitive impairment. This would be things such as losing an item and being unable to find it, some trouble with basic financial issues like balancing a checkbook, difficulty keeping track of their various medications, and so on. Your loved one may begin to develop confusion when he or she is driving a vehicle.
This stage is generally harmless so long as the elderly person has someone to help with minor tasks associated with daily living; however, it can become dangerous in situations where the elderly person forgets that he or she has already taken his or her medications (and takes them again) or if the elderly person is required to do any significant amount of driving. Be sure to closely monitor your loved one's ability to drive and have a frank talk with him or her when it comes time to give up the keys.
Stage four: Moderate Impairment
At stage four the person will have difficulty accomplishing routine tasks such as cooking a meal or performing simple housecleaning chores. Urinary incontinence may also be present, although urinary incontinence in and of itself is not necessarily indicative of dementia. A person in stage four will begin to have some difficulty remembering words and phrases and may find engaging in conversation to be more difficult than it should be.
Stage five: Moderately Severe Impairment
As the condition worsens your elderly loved one will eventually lose the ability to engage in their day-to-day activities. Even something as simple as choosing the right clothing to fit the weather will become a challenge. He or she may forget such basic information as for his or her address and phone number and even the place where he or she currently is.
Stage six: Severe Impairment
In stage six the elderly person will need help dressing, using the toilet, and remembering names. He or she will still recognize faces. Wandering around and getting lost becomes an issue at this stage, and your loved one must be closely monitored for his or her safety.
Stage seven: Very Severe Impairment
In the seventh stage a patient may lose his or her ability to speak, eat without help, and sometimes even walk or sit without assistance. He or she will likely be incontinent and will usually not know where he or she is.
Although dementia is a challenging condition to deal with, knowing where your loved one is in the progression of the condition will assist you in making the best choices regarding care and living arrangements. If you suspect that your elderly loved one is developing this condition you should closely monitor the situation and consult regularly with your loved one's healthcare provider.
Vann, Madeline. The Seven Stages of Dementia. September 15, 2015. Available at http://tophealthlogics.com/the-seven-stages-of-dementia/.
The Seven Dementia Stages and the Global Deterioration Scale. 7Dementia Stages, What to Expect and How to Cope (website). Available online at http://www.7dementiastages.com/dementia-stages/.