Understanding the Main 3 Stages of Dementia

Rather than occurring immediately, dementia develops over the course of time. Learn more about the main 3 stages of dementia here.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are nearly ten million new cases of dementia each year. This is a condition that has touched all of our lives in some way.

Once considered to be simply a part of aging, scientists have been studying this condition for many years. Although there is still much work to do, we know more than ever before.

Are you interested in learning more about how this condition develops? Read on to learn about the 3 stages of dementia

Understanding Dementia

Dementia is an all too frequent syndrome that affects memory, concentration, judgment, and other crucial brain functions.

It is important to understand the distinction that dementia is a syndrome and not a disease per se. The symptoms of dementia are actually due to an underlying disease, such as Alzheimer’s.

Dispelling Misconceptions

There are common misconceptions about dementia that continue to prevail. Many people believe that it is just another part of getting old.

The truth is that, although dementia is more common in the elderly, it is never ‘normal’ and should never just be written off as such.

As anyone who has experienced dementia first-hand can tell you, the impact on daily life is real. This goes far beyond walking into a room and forgetting why. Little mental slips are normal and happen to everyone.

History of Dementia

Conditions similar to dementia have described in ancient medicinal texts but their understanding of the brain or any related conditions was extremely lacking, to say the least.

Until a few hundred years ago, physicians thought memory loss was just part of again but couldn’t explain why some were affected more than others.

Turning Point

During the early 1900s, scientists had an unprecedented knowledge of anatomy and biology. They were finally able to examine and dissect brains using new histopathology techniques.

In 1910, Alzheimer’s disease was named after Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist who described changes in the brain that are still recognized by scientists today.

Fast forward over one hundred years and, although we have developed treatments there is still no cure.

Causes of Dementia

As we mentioned before, dementia is never a normal part of aging but is actually the result of an underlying disease.

Accounting for over 60% of cases, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause by a wide margin. This is characterized by the progressive degeneration of brain cells.

Vascular dementia is the second most common cause and typically occurs secondary to a stroke. There are several other causes, such as Parkinson’s, HIV, and trauma, but are much less common.

The 3 Stages of Dementia

Depending on the underlying cause, dementia generally presents with a very gradual onset and progressively worsens over the course of several years.

There are several ways to classify dementia based on the severity of the symptoms of dementia. The vast majority of patients will fall into one of three categories but there may be some overlap.

Here are the three main stages of dementia

Early Stage

Early dementia, also known as mild dementia is the first stage. The early signs of dementia are somewhat subtle so they often go unnoticed, especially in persons without a social circle.

During this stage, it may still be possible to function independently and even go to work. However, there are certain signs of dementia to look out for.

People in this stage may forget the names of family members or co-workers or get lost in familiar neighborhoods. We’re not referring to the name of someone you just met. Everyone does that.

Middle Stage

This is followed by the moderate, or middle phase. Now, the dementia symptoms from the early phase are more noticeable but they may be in denial.

As memory worsens, other symptoms of dementia can arise. They can become socially withdrawn, depressed, and easily confused. Family members may notice a change in personality.

This can be very hard to process for friends and family members. However, a strong social support system is crucial for people living with Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia.

Late Stage Dementia

This is the most severe phase of dementia. It generally takes several years to get to this phase. Genetics, adequate initiation of treatment, social support, and other factors may prolong the time it takes to reach late stage dementia.

People in this stage are completely dependent on others to perform the basic activities of daily living (ADLs). They may lose the ability to communicate with others and control bodily functions.

Care for Late-Stage Dementia

Seeing a loved-fall one fall ill is extremely distressing. Plus, the constant need for assistance is a lot to bear for even the most loving and dedicated family.

Caretaker stress is something that should be evaluated periodically. This can lead to the breaking down of support systems, which would be devastating in this late stage.

Staying at a Special Memory Care Unit (MSU) is the best option for many patients. Memory care units are specialized homes where they can receive personalized assistance and medical care around the clock.

The Future of Dementia Treatment

Dementia is a condition we wish we could leave in the past. However, we do not have a cure and the pain it has already caused is too much to forget.

A prerequisite step to resolving a problem is understanding it. If you feel that you or a loved one may have dementia, don’t keep quiet. Be open and seek medical advice.

Learn to recognize the main 3 stages of dementia and check out our online forums to learn more.

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