Understanding the Different Stages of Dementia

Female home carer hugging senior male patient at care homeOne of the first questions in most people’s minds when a family member is diagnosed with dementia is precisely what can be expected in the weeks, months, and years to come. We realize that the hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the progressive decline in cognitive abilities and also the skills required to manage everyday life. Yet, every person advances through these changes in a different way. There are a number of factors that will impact the rate of decline, such as:

  • Prescriptions the individual is taking
  • Overall health and physical makeup
  • The system of support available
  • The person’s general emotional wellbeing and resilience

There are other determinants to factor in based on the specific type of dementia diagnosed. As an example:

  • MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment): Mild cognitive impairment affects up to 20% of seniors. More than the typical minor cognitive decline experienced in aging, MCI involves difficulties with language, judgment, thinking, and memory which are obvious to the senior individually and frequently to others as well. Researchers found that about 38% of seniors with MCI later developed dementia. The other 62% never progressed further than MCI – and in a number of cases, their condition actually improved, for unknown reasons. Indications of MCI include forgetfulness, impulsiveness, depression, apathy, anxiety, aggression and irritability, and others.
  • Vascular Dementia: Because vascular dementia is caused by a blockage in the flow of blood to the brain, the kind of blockage will affect the progression of the disease. For example, if small blood vessels are blocked, the decline is typically gradual. Major blood vessel blockage may cause a sudden onset of symptoms, accompanied by intense periods of change thereafter.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Progression of Lewy body dementia can be gradual, but could also include widely differing degrees of alertness and attention during the early stages. One day could find the senior lucid, while the following day – or even several hours later – could bring hallucinations, confusion, and memory loss. In the later stages of the disease, restlessness, agitation, aggression, tremors, and stiffness become more prevalent.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: Unlike other forms of dementia, short-term memory is usually not impacted in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. Instead, early symptoms include behavioral changes, such as distraction, rudeness, apathy, and disregard for social norms. As the disease advances, difficulties with language become noticeable as well, in addition to memory loss, vision problems, and other typical symptoms observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Reach out to the dementia care team at Generations at Home for more informative resources to help you better understand and care for someone you love with Alzheimer’s. We are also always here to assist with creative, compassionate care in order to make life more fulfilling for a senior with dementia, and to help family members achieve an improved life balance. Call us at 727-940-3414 to learn more.