Although dementia is often thought of as a disease, like Alzheimer's disease, it is actually a set of symptoms. These symptoms can be caused by many different types of diseases or disorders, like an infection, stroke, head trauma, infection, brain bleeding or the side effects of a medication. Of all the different causes, Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia which is why they are often confused or used interchangeably.
5 Stages of Dementia
If dementia is caused by something like an infection or medication, and can be treated, these symptoms are likely to go away. The majority of cases however are not reversible, rather they are progressive. This means the symptoms get worse whatever the underlying cause is, such as old age or Alzheimer's, progresses. The progression of dementia is separated into five distinct stages.
Stage 1: No Impairment
Stage one of dementia means that there is no impairment in a person’s abilities. This generally means that the individual is able to take care of themselves. At this stage there are no real issues with memory, a person is aware of where they are and at what moment in time, have normal judgment, can function normally in the world.
Stage 2: Questionable Impairment
Stage 2 of dementia means that there are very slight impairments in a person’s abilities. That means that while they can still take care of themselves without help, they can have some trouble remembering things. This can present itself as difficulty solving difficult problems, or being able to adhere to regular time schedules. This can cause both social and work troubles.
Stage 3: Mild Impairment
Stage 3 of dementia means that a person is noticeably impaired in various area of brain function, but the changes are not severe. This stage typically presents symptoms like short-term memory loss, geographical disorientation and an inability to function fully independently. This means that by being more forgetful their day becomes disrupted, they can have issues getting from point A to point B and personal life can be neglected. At this stage, an individual may need to be reminded to take care of chores at home, as well as their own personal hygiene.
Stage 4: Moderate Impairment
Stage 4 of dementia means that a person is moderately impaired and may need help doing day to day activities they were once able to do on their own. This means the individual’s short term memory has gotten worse, and they have a tough time remembering new people or things. They may be well enough to attend to social gatherings, but should be accompanied as they are easily disoriented, and no longer have a sense on time. At this stage they are still able to do chores but should be supervised, and will need help tending to their personal hygiene.
Stage 5: Severe Impairment
Stage 5 of dementia is the most severe of all the stages as the numerical order suggests. At this point an individual needs help to live day to day. A person’s memory loss becomes severe, and they lose touch with where and when they are - which means they can easily get lost or hurt. Going to social events, or just engaging in everyday activities can be nearly impossible even with help. At this stage functionality within the home is also lost and help in the form of a home-aid or family member is needed to see to everyday needs.