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Understanding the Different Stages of Dementia

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are around 50 million people suffering from dementia around the world. Among older people, dementia is also one of the leading causes of disability and dependency.


How to Tell If Someone Has Dementia


Unfortunately, there is no single specific test to determine if someone has dementia. Instead, doctors look at a person’s medical history and conduct a physical exam and lab tests. They may also interview the patient to spot for unusual changes in thinking and day-to-day behavior.


Should a healthcare professional diagnose dementia in a patient, the first thing they’ll do is determine which stage it’s in. Health professionals refer to dementia in “stages” due to its progressive nature.


What Are the Stages of Dementia?


When talking to patients and their families, health professionals will often discuss dementia as being in three stages: mild, moderate, and severe.


However, in the healthcare field, dementia is described in more specific stages. For example, the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS), developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg in 1982, provides health professionals with an outline of the stages of dementia and its specific forms, like Alzheimer’s disease and Pick’s disease.


The GDS is broken down into seven stages, which are described as follows.


Pre-Dementia Stages


Stages 1 to 3 in the GDS are the pre-dementia stages.


In Stage 1, a person has normal cognitive function, does not experience memory loss (which is NOT the same as forgetfulness), and is otherwise mentally healthy. Individuals with no dementia are considered to be in this stage.


Stage 2 is used to describe the normal forgetfulness that comes with age. As we get older, it’s normal to forget names and where things like your keys are. No symptoms of dementia are present in Stage 2 despite there being a very mild decline in cognitive performance.


In Stage 3, mild cognitive decline will manifest itself in increased forgetfulness and slight problems with concentration. However, this does not necessarily mean the person has dementia.


Dementia Stages


In Stage 4, we now see signs of early-stage dementia, including reduced memory of recent events, more frequent problems with concentration, and difficulties traveling alone and completing complex tasks. Socialization can become a problem, with the patient beginning to withdraw from family and friends.


Stage 5 covers symptoms of mid-stage dementia, with patients having major memory problems to the point of needing some assistance to go about their daily activities, including getting dressed, bathing, and preparing meals. Memory loss at this stage can include major aspects of the patient’s life, such as their home address, phone number, or day of the week.


In Stages 6 and 7, patients now require extensive assistance with their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). It’s common for patients to begin forgetting the names of their closest loved ones. Incontinence (i.e. loss of bladder control) also becomes a problem in this stage. In the most severe cases, patients lose their ability to speak and communicate and require extensive assistance to perform basic activities like eating and using the toilet.


Why Dementia Care Is the Best Option for Patients


If you have a loved one suffering from dementia, reliable and compassionate dementia care is the best way to ensure their comfort, safety, and overall well-being. At Princeton Health Care Center, we are committed to giving seniors comprehensive dementia care. Contact Princeton Health Care Center today to learn more about our dementia care options.

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