Today, 1 in 3 older adults has dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. To think your loved one might be one of those statistics can be terrifying, and the scariest part is often the unknown. What can you expect? How can you help? It’s never easy, but educating yourself on what may lie ahead can be helpful, and preparing as best as possible can be empowering. To start, here’s what you should know about the stages of dementia.
Dementia is not a disease in and of itself; instead, it is a term used to describe symptoms that affect thinking, memory, and behavior. Most people believe Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the same thing. However, Alzheimer’s is actually only one type of dementia, although it is the most prevalent type, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases as reported by the CDC. Other types of dementia include the following:
There are a range of conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia. While many dementias are permanent, starting slowly and progressing over time, some can be reversed, such as those caused by thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies, making early diagnosis vital.
Every dementia is different and progresses according to its own timeline. Even two people with
the same diagnosis may experience different symptoms. In many cases, different outcomes
result from a person’s underlying health. For example, Alzheimer’s could contribute to life
expectancy differently for a person who has other health concerns.
Symptoms are subtle at first and may worsen as the disease progresses. This can make the disease more challenging to identify until the symptoms start to interfere with a person’s everyday life and responsibilities.
Generally, there are three stages of dementia:
The progressive nature of dementia doesn’t necessarily mean that every day is worse, however.
People with dementia may have good days and bad days. Some also experience an effect called
sundowning. Late in the day, symptoms may worsen because of exhaustion, low light, disruptions to the body’s internal clock, and similar factors.
In the early stages of dementia, your loved one can likely remain at home with support from friends and family members and/or an in-home aide. Keep in mind that in-home aides can be expensive and may not be covered by Medicare.
When dementia progresses to the later stages and your loved one needs care outside the home, assisted living and memory care are two types of senior living that can offer support.
To learn more about the stages of dementia, download our Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing the Early Signs of Dementia today!