Dementia is a progressive disease. And though everyone’s journey is different, there are three primary stages, each with its own unique set of symptoms. Understanding each stage can provide insight into different care strategies to help reduce frustration and suffering for both the individual with dementia and their caregiver.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
In the early stages of dementia, cognitive deficits start to become apparent to family and friends. The person gradually has more difficulty with things like remembering names, finding words, or concentrating on the task at hand.
A person with MCI might get confused easier, get lost while in unfamiliar situations, or have increased difficulty performing certain tasks. The desire for social interaction decreases. They may continue to withdraw from activities they once found stimulating and enjoyable.
Denial is often a problem at this stage of dementia.
At this stage, it’s important to start building systems to help compensate for memory loss. Calendars, planners, and visual references can aid in helping everyone stay on track.
As dementia progresses, you’ll find more noticeable deficits in short term memory loss. The individual may forget the most common things, like his or her address. They may also forget details from the past, such as names of some family members, or specific details from when they grew up.
This is the stage where repetitious questions start to appear. You may find an individual with high anxiety as they start realizing something is wrong. Complex tasks can be increasingly difficult, and highly stimulating situations can become overwhelming.
At this stage, modify your daily activities to remain as peaceful as possible. Create familiarity in every day. Small gatherings are often easier than larger ones. Safety measures may be needed, such as disconnecting the stove when not in use. They may need regular caregiving to prevent them from wandering far from home.
By the late stages of dementia, a person usually needs hands-on assistance with most tasks. He or she is largely unaware of events happening around him or her. This is when individuals start forgetting people closest to them. This is where challenging behaviors are common.
An individual with severe dementia needs support at all times. A person at this stage can still live at home, and enjoy the comfort that comes with being in familiar surroundings. However, they will need round the clock care to assist with all their needs. A predictable routine is best.
If you suspect your loved one has dementia, consult with his or her physician right away. Early intervention and diagnosis can give a person the maximum benefit of early treatment options, as well as take part in planning for their future.