Understanding the stages of dementia

July 28, 2020

Nial Joyce of leading dementia care centre, Clifden House in Seaford outlines the different stages of dementia and how to recognise the symptoms.

When it comes to the different stages of dementia, we can typically categorise the trajectory of the disease as mild, moderate or severe. However, a seven stage model that looks at cognitive decline is perhaps more useful. Knowing where a loved one falls on this scale can help to identify signs and symptoms, while also determining the most appropriate care plan.

Clifden House Care Centre Seaford Picture by Jim Holden

Clifden House Care Centre, Seaford, Picture by Jim Holden

The 7 stages of dementia

Normal Behaviour
In the early stages of dementia your loved one may experience no symptoms, though changes in the brain might already be occurring – these can happen several years before any dementia signs or symptoms emerge.

A person living with Dementia might forget things easily and constantly lose things around the house, although not to the point where the memory loss can easily be distinguished from normal age-related memory deterioration.

Mild Decline
You may begin to notice subtle changes and signs that something ‘isn’t quite right.’ They might be frequently losing their purse, or keys or forgetting appointments. This stage can last up to seven years.

Moderate Decline
In these later stages of dementia, the signs and symptoms become clearer to everyone. Your loved one may find it difficult to manage money or pay bills, or remember what they had for breakfast. If they visit their doctor at this point, and undergo a Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), it’s likely that they will be diagnosed with dementia. The average length of this stage is around two years.

Moderately Severe Decline
They may need more help with day-to-day living during this stage. While they can probably still manage their personal care, they might find it difficult to dress appropriately or be unable to remember simple facts about themselves, such as their address or phone number. However, they usually recognise family and friends and can recall events from years ago, especially their childhood, with great clarity. On average this stage can last around 1.5 years.

Severe Decline
When it comes to the final stages of dementia, constant supervision is needed at home. They may need help with washing and dressing and may also become incontinent. You could notice changes in their personality and behaviour – such as anger and aggression – that can be upsetting and difficult to cope with. Although they might be very confused, they often still know and recognise the people closest to them. This can bring some comfort. Experts believe this stage can last on average around 2.5 years.

Very Severe Decline
Many people pass away before they reach this final stage of dementia, often as a result of other health conditions. At this stage, they’ll experience severe loss of speech, need assistance with day- to- day living, feeding, need round-the-clock care and the support of professional carers.

At Clifden House we aim to maximise each individual’s potential through activities and choice, reduce the use of unnecessary medication and help to alleviate the symptoms of dementia in a caring and supportive environment.

Clifden House Dementia Care Centre, Seaford has been delivering exceptional care in Sussex for 50 years. As a leader in specialist dementia care it aims to facilitate each person to continue to live a fulfilling and active life with privacy, dignity and security.