Understanding the 7 Stages of Dementia

Dec 15, 2023

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia can be an emotionally challenging time for families. Beyond processing the news, there are numerous practical considerations, from medical and financial concerns to legal matters. At Charter Senior Living of Hazel Crest, we believe in education and support when it comes to navigating a dementia diagnosis. Keep reading to learn about the seven stages of dementia, which is crucial to navigating this journey effectively and preparing for what lies ahead.

The Journey Through the 7 Stages of Dementia

To comprehend the progression of dementia, it’s essential to recognize the seven distinct stages it encompasses, ranging from normal brain health to a very severe decline. Charter Senior Living has outlined each stage to help families identify the status of their loved one’s disease, enabling them to understand, cope, and seek appropriate treatment.

Stage 1: Normal Brain Health

In the initial stage, individuals exhibit no cognitive impairment. This phase serves as a baseline for comparison as the disease progresses. Normal brain health allows individuals to carry out daily activities without any noticeable memory or cognitive challenges.

Stage 2: Very Mild

During this stage, individuals may experience very mild symptoms, such as occasional difficulty remembering names or misplacing items. It is important to note that these initial signs are often not a cause for immediate concern and may not indicate the onset of a serious cognitive illness.

Stage 3: Mild

As dementia progresses to the mild stage, individuals may face mild cognitive impairment (MCI). This is characterized by an escalation of previously minor issues with memory and thinking, which begin to affect daily life to a moderate extent. While noticeable, these changes may not severely impact the individual’s overall functioning.

Stage 4: Moderate

Memory issues become more pronounced in the moderate stage, and individuals may exhibit moodiness or antisocial behavior. Everyday tasks may become challenging, and individuals may be unresponsive to their surroundings. It’s common for individuals in this stage to deny the existence of any problems and insist that everything is normal.

Stage 5: Moderately Severe

At this point, individuals often require assistance with basic daily tasks such as dressing and bathing. Regular confusion, forgetfulness, and difficulty with focus and problem-solving become more apparent. The need for support in daily activities reflects the increasing impact of dementia on the individual’s ability to function independently.

Stage 6: Severe

In the severe stage, individuals become highly dependent on caregivers for most tasks of daily life, including dressing, bathing, eating, and using the bathroom. Memory and mental problems persist, but additional challenges arise, such as personality changes and potential difficulty recognizing loved ones. The caregiving responsibility intensifies as the individual’s cognitive abilities decline further.

Stage 7: Very Severe

This final stage represents a significant decline in cognitive function. Communication abilities may decline, and individuals may only occasionally exhibit moments of lucidity. Full assistance is required for all aspects of daily life, including personal care and mobility. Recognizing loved ones becomes increasingly difficult, and the individual may lose the ability to walk independently.

Understanding these stages is crucial for families and caregivers to provide appropriate support and care tailored to the specific challenges individuals face at each phase of dementia. There are other important factors to consider when dealing with a dementia diagnosis.

Financial and Legal Planning: Taking Proactive Steps

Preparing for the progression of Alzheimer’s or dementia involves not only understanding the stages but also addressing financial and legal aspects promptly. Delaying these matters can complicate decision-making as the disease advances. Engage in open discussions and take the following steps:

  • Update legal documents, such as wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and HIPAA authorizations, with the guidance of an elder care attorney.
  • Review and understand financial obligations, including bank accounts, mortgages, insurance policies, and retirement funds, while your loved one can still communicate details.

Preserving Memories: Building Lasting Connections

As dementia progresses, memories fade, underscoring the importance of preserving precious moments. Consider the following:

  • Bond with your loved one by listening to their stories and going through family photos or videos.
  • Capture current moments through photos and videos, creating lasting connections that will endure through the stages of dementia.

Understanding the seven stages of dementia empowers families to better face the challenges ahead. By proactively addressing legal and financial matters and cherishing memories, you can navigate this journey with compassion and resilience.

Charter Senior Living of Hazel Crest: Memory Care for families and their loved ones

Understanding dementia is only part of the journey of caring for a loved one with memory loss. Often, Memory Care communities like ours are a helpful option to ensure residents are getting the care they need and the programming and support they deserve. It allows families to be family, and not just caregivers. Give us a call at 708.580.7113 to learn more about our community if you’re considering Memory Care for your loved one.