Understanding the Stages of Dementia

elder man hugging family caregiver
Midnight Sun Home Care, provider of care services in Anchorage, discusses the stages of dementia.

Among the first questions in most people’s minds when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another dementia is what can be expected in the time to come. We know that the hallmark of dementia is the progressive decline in cognitive abilities and also the skills needed to manage daily life. Yet, every person progresses through the stages of dementia in a different way. There are a variety of factors that will impact the rate of decline, such as:

  • Medications the individual is taking
  • Overall health and physical makeup
  • The system of support available
  • The individual's general emotional wellbeing and resilience

There are also other determinants to factor in based on the type of dementia diagnosed. As an example:

  • MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment): Mild cognitive impairment effects up to 20% of seniors. More than the normal minor cognitive decline experienced in aging, MCI involves problems with language, judgment, thinking, and memory which are obvious to the older adult individually and frequently to others as well. Medical researchers found that about 38% of seniors with MCI later developed dementia. The other 62% never progressed further than MCI – and in some cases, their condition even improved, for unknown reasons. Indications of MCI include forgetfulness, depression, impulsiveness, anxiety, apathy, aggression and irritability, and others.
  • Vascular Dementia: Because vascular dementia is a result of a blockage in circulation of blood to the brain, the kind of blockage will affect the advancement of the disease. For example, if small blood vessels are blocked, the decline will typically occur gradually. Major blood vessel blockage may cause a sudden onset of symptoms, accompanied by intense periods of change thereafter.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Progression of Lewy body dementia may be gradual, but could also include widely varying degrees of alertness and attention in the early stages. One day might find the senior lucid, while the following day – and sometimes even several hours later – could bring confusion, hallucinations, and memory loss. In the late stages of the disease, restlessness, agitation, aggression, tremors, and stiffness become more common.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: Unlike other types of dementia, short-term memory is typically not impacted in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. Instead, early symptoms include behavioral changes, for example, distraction, rudeness, apathy, and disregard for social norms. As the disease advances, difficulties with language become noticeable as well, along with memory loss, vision problems, and other regular symptoms seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

Get in touch with the dementia care team at Midnight Sun Home Care for additional informative resources about the stages of dementia that will help you better understand and care for someone you love with Alzheimer's or another type of dementia. We’re also always here to assist with creative, compassionate in-home care to help make life more satisfying for a family member with Alzheimer's disease, and to help family members achieve an improved life balance. For more information about our care services in Anchorage and nearby areas, contact us online or call us at (907) 677-7890 today!


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