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7 Stages of Dementia

Facts about dementia

  • Dementia is a decline and/or loss of memory, reasoning, judgment, behavior, language and other mental abilities that are not a part of normal aging; it usually progressively worsens over time.
  • Dementia, senility, and Alzheimer's disease are not the same things.
  • In general, there are many causes of dementia, but all dementia diseases result from dysfunction of a person's cerebral cortex, directly or indirectly.
  • There are irreversible, and potentially reversible causes of dementia.
  • Early signs and symptoms of dementia may go unrecognized, but the first sign is usually loss of short-term memory.
  • Some of the other early dementia symptoms and signs include:
    • Personality changes
    • Mood swings
    • Poor judgment
    • Paranoia or suspiciousness
  • Some of the intermediate signs and symptoms of dementia include
    • Worsening of early dementia symptoms
    • Abnormal moods
    • Confabulation
    • Inability to learn new information
  • Some of the later signs and symptoms of dementia include
    • Worsening of the intermediate signs and symptoms of dementia
    • Inability to walk or move to place to place unassisted
    • Complete loss of short and long term memory
  • There are 7 stages of dementia based on the Global deterioration scale (Reisberg Scale). However, other dementia stages or scales exist that describe between 3 and 5 stages, but they all have similar symptoms and signs.
  • Generalized treatment for dementia involves medical care and day-to-day care by family members.
  • In many cases, family members can help loved ones handle dementia symptoms at home.
  • Dementia treatment also can focus on correcting all reversible factors and slowing irreversible factors of dementia, for example, correcting drug doses, treating symptoms, treating depression, and treating specific medical disorders such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • Certain medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors and others may help reduce symptoms. Surgery is reserved for specific conditions that may improve the individual's condition such as removal of a brain tumor.
  • Occupational and physical therapy may improve some symptoms of dementia.
  • Currently, there is no known way to prevent irreversible dementia. Some reversible dementia cases may be prevented or slowed by maintaining a healthy lifestyle (avoiding excessive use of alcohol, smoking and/or substance abuse, and avoiding infections that may affect the brain).
  • Life expectancy for someone with dementia averages about eight years after initial diagnosis, and may range from about 3 to 20 years.
Last Reviewed 11/20/2017

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Possible Early Dementia Signs

The most common symptom of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) by far is memory loss. Other, much less common symptoms include

  • disturbances of language (word finding),
  • attention (poor concentration), and
  • orientation (disorientation in familiar surroundings).

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Delirium, Dementia, and Amnesia »

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