Dementia staging refers to the ability to understand exactly what stage of the disease your loved one is in to help provide the correct level of care needed. As a caregiver, it can be difficult to take a step back and try to allow your loved one to continue doing things on his or her own, but over-caring can actually do more harm than good.
Defining the stage of the disease your loved one is in will help physicians or therapists determine the proper approach to treatment, which will lead to better communication between the caregiver, health professionals and the patient.
The Stages of Dementia
Usually, the stages of dementia are referred to as “early-stage,” “middle-stage” or “late-stage,” however, there are actually seven stages of dementia:
Stage 1 – No Cognitive Decline: This person has not experienced any memory-related issues and overall is mentally healthy. They have no problems with judgment, communication skills or daily activities.
Stage 2 –Very Mild Cognitive Decline: Occasional lapses of memory occur but aren’t noticed by family or friends. Studies show that half of all people over age 65 begin noticing some cognitive difficulties, but at this stage these difficulties are considered a normal part of the aging process.
Stage 3 – Mild Cognitive Decline: At this stage, you’ll start to notice mild changes in memory, behavior, and/or the communication skills of your loved one. They may have trouble recalling names or words, have difficulty with planning and organization, performing daily tasks, misplacing objects and forgetting things they just learned.
Stage 4 –Moderate Cognitive Decline: Cognitive impairment symptoms are more obvious at this stage and are easily detectable by a physician or therapist. Your loved one will exhibit confusion completing tasks like cooking, driving or shopping. They may forget recent events or conversations and have trouble handling their finances. They may also withdraw socially and experience mood swings or depression.
Stage 5 – Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline: Your loved one will require assistance with day to day activities at this stage. They will experience severe memory loss, disorientation over what day or season it is and decreased personal hygiene skills. However, it is common in this stage for the sufferer to still recognize significant family members.
Stage 6 – Severe Cognitive Decline: At this stage your loved one loses the ability to recognize family and has noticeable personality changes, like paranoia, suspiciousness or extreme anxiety. They’ll need help with many basic daily tasks. They may begin to wander and withdraw from their surroundings, or show signs of agitation and hallucinations in the late afternoon or evening hours.
Stage 7 – Very Severe Cognitive Decline (late-stage): In this final stage, the sufferer will no longer be able to respond as communication has become very limited. Help will be needed around the clock for all daily personal care.
The Benefits of Dementia Staging
It’s important to focus on allowing our loved ones suffering from dementia to maintain as much independence as possible. The more you do for them as a caregiver, the more dependent upon your help your loved one will become.
This is why an assessment of their condition is so necessary. Knowing what stage our loved one is in will allow memory care professionals the information they need to help us help our loved one adjust a new sort of lifestyle, whether it’s dealing with a family caregiver or helping build new relationships with staff members at a memory care facility. It also lets us know what concerns we should have for his or her safety. We need to understand our loved one’s current abilities to help nurture them, allowing them to live a better, more independent life.
Watch ASC’s own Stephanie Head explain dementia staging on a recent episode of Fox 59’s Angela Answers:
For more information about memory care programs through Auguste’s Cottage at American Senior Communities, please visit www.ascseniorcare.com/ac.