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Stages of dementia

When it comes to understanding the stages of dementia, it’s important to know that there are different ways to categorise them. Some models use seven stages, others use three stages. 

The three-stage model is the simplest and most helpful. The stages in this model are mild, moderate, and severe.

To avoid confusion, it’s essential to clarify which staging model someone is referring to when they mention a particular stage number. A stage three in the three-stage model is considered severe, but a stage three in the seven-stage model may not be as advanced.

However, it’s crucial to understand that determining a person’s stage is not solely based on one symptom. For example, if someone has paranoia, that alone doesn’t determine their stage of dementia. It’s necessary to look at the whole picture.

Additionally, it’s important to note that people don’t progress through each stage at the same speed or spend an equal amount of time in each one. Factors such as other health conditions, the type of dementia, and the care they receive can affect the length of time spent in each stage. For instance, one person might spend several years in the mild stage, while another may only experience it for a year.


Early Stage: Mild

In the early stage of dementia, individuals may experience subtle changes in cognitive function that are noticeable but not disabling.

Common symptoms may include:

-Mild forgetfulness, particularly for recent events or information

-Difficulty finding the right words or remembering names

-Challenges with concentration, problem-solving, and multitasking

-Mood swings, irritability, or mild changes in behaviour

-Despite these symptoms, individuals can often maintain independence in their daily activities with minimal assistance

-Diagnosis at this stage may be challenging due to the subtle nature of symptoms and the ability of individuals to compensate for cognitive deficits

Middle Stage: Moderate 

The middle stage of dementia is typically characterised by a more pronounced decline in cognitive function and increasing difficulty with daily tasks.

Common symptoms may include:

-Progressive memory loss, including forgetting significant details about personal history or family members

-Difficulty with communication, such as finding words, following conversations, or expressing thoughts coherently

-Challenges with spatial orientation, leading to disorientation in familiar places or difficulty with directions

-Changes in behaviour and personality, such as agitation, aggression, wandering, or repetitive behaviours

-Need for assistance with activities of daily living, such as dressing, grooming, and meal preparation

-Caregiving becomes more intensive during this stage, as individuals may require supervision and support to ensure their safety and well-being

Late Stage: Severe 

The late stage of dementia is characterised by significant cognitive decline and a profound loss of functional abilities.

Common symptoms may include:

-Severe memory loss, with individuals unable to recognize familiar people or places

-Impaired language abilities, including difficulty speaking, understanding speech, or responding to verbal cues

-Loss of motor skills, leading to difficulties with mobility, swallowing, and other basic functions

-Incontinence and other physical complications due to the decline in bodily functions

-Limited awareness of surroundings and inability to engage in meaningful communication or activities

-Individuals in the late stage of dementia require extensive assistance with all aspects of daily care, and may eventually become bedridden and dependent on others for all their needs

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