Nobody wants to grow old, but we all do eventually. If you’re like most people, you may be worried about the seemingly inevitable onset of a condition that many experience as they enter their senior years: dementia. In this article, we’ll look at dementia stages, dementia personality changes, common behaviors of dementia, and what signs to watch out for.
Stages of Dementia
What are the stages of dementia behavior? Dementia rarely comes on suddenly, unless there is an intervening problem, such as a serious stroke. In most cases, there are different dementia stages. There is no universal dementia scale — you can be learning about the third, fifth, or seventh stage of dementia depending on the resource. For this article, we have chosen a seven-stage scale to show you the most common progression of cognitive decline.
Behavioral Differences in Dementia Patients
Dementia patients experience symptoms differently, but in general, these are the seven stages of dementia, along with typical dementia behaviors:
Stage 1: Normal Behavior
- Everyone starts off at this stage. No symptoms may be evident, but changes may already be occurring in the brain over several years.
Stage 2: Forgetfulness
- In the very early stages of dementia, someone may start to forget things easily — such as past conversations, or where they have put things around their home. At this point, it may be hard to tell whether this is just “old age”, a person’s natural forgetfulness, or the first sign of dementia.
Stage 3: Mild Decline
- In this stage, which can last up to seven years, the memory loss may seem more pronounced. They may be losing things more frequently, forgetting appointments, and seem a little “off”.
Stage 4: Moderate Decline
- Signs and symptoms of dementia are more obvious to loved ones — and maybe even strangers interacting with them. They may forget simple details such as what they last ate, or when they last ate. The person may start having difficulties managing tasks like paying bills.
- They may be diagnosed with dementia by a doctor at this point. This stage tends to last around two years.
Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline
- Someone with dementia at this stage may need more help with everyday living. While they are likely still using the toilet and taking care of personal needs, they may require assistance with day-to-day tasks such as cleaning, cooking, groceries, and laundry. They tend to recognize loved ones and retain long term memories — such as their childhood — but might be unable to remember important information about themselves — like address and contact information.
- This stage may last around one and a half years.
Stage 6: Severe Decline
- At this point, a dementia patient may need constant supervision, as they likely need assistance with personal hygiene and dressing/undressing. They may even be incontinent. Loved ones may notice pronounced changes in personality and confusion. They may still recognize the people who have been closest to them and may need comfort.
- This stage can last about two and a half years.
Stage 7: Very Severe Decline
- Many dementia patients do not reach this stage, likely due to other health conditions relating to old age. Those who do may lose their speech and require professional, round-the-clock care because they may be unable to feed themselves.
People also ask: “How can you tell if someone has dementia?” If you don’t know the person, you may only be able to tell if they are in the later stages of dementia because you have no other reference. You may notice an older person who is lost and confused, babbling, or unable to tell you who they are. If it’s someone you love, you may notice signs in the earlier stages because you know them well.
Warning Signs of Dementia
As we mentioned earlier, at the earliest stages of dementia it can be hard to tell whether someone is exhibiting dementia behaviors or normal, age-related changes. As time goes on, however, dementia behaviors tend to get worse, until the dementia patient is no longer able to live day-to-day without assistance.
What are the behaviors of dementia? People also ask: “What are the 10 warning signs of dementia?” You will typically see:
- Memory loss — starting with simple facts and conversations, then challenges with short-term memory before they begin forgetting appointments, tasks, and people.
- Disorientation and confusion — forgetting where they are, where they live, or even what day it is.
- Difficulty with cognitive abilities — things that may have been easy before, such as balancing the checkbook, crossword and other puzzles are now difficult.
- Misplacing things — includes putting things where they normally shouldn’t be, such as keys in the fridge, a beverage in the cabinet, or bills in the hamper.
- Problems with language — forgetting vocabulary, using words inappropriately, or saying things that don’t make sense to the listener.
- Difficulties with familiar tasks — tasks that they are used to performing routinely or even every day, such as making meals, cleaning, or getting ready to go out are now difficult.
- Impaired judgement — bad decision making, especially if it relates to health and well-being, such as choosing clothing that is inappropriate for the weather, or refusing to seek medical attention when they should.
- Loss of interest — withdrawing socially, loss of initiative and enjoyment of things they used to like doing, depression, anxiety, or voluntary isolation.
- Changes in mood — usually uncharacteristic mood swings that are pronounced or don’t make sense.
- Changes in personality — this could be in general or connected to developing mental health issues.
People also ask: “What is the most common behavior associated with dementia?” As you can see, there are a number of behaviors and changes related to dementia. The one thing they have in common is a marked departure from that person’s norm — such as a witty person who is normally good with words suddenly having a difficult time with verbal communications, or a methodical, analytical person with a diminished ability to reason.
Dementia Personality Changes
Personality changes in dementia patients can be heartbreaking because sometimes they become unrecognizable to the people who love them the most. Someone who used to love flowers and bold colors may now seem to gravitate towards uncreative designs and empty spaces. Other times, the personality change could be part of a mental health problem, such as a formerly vivacious, active person becoming withdrawn and showing signs of depression — in which case treatment should be sought.
Many dementia patients start exhibiting uncharacteristic anger and aggression. At what stage of dementia does aggression occur? Most people suffering from dementia demonstrate inappropriately aggressive, angry behavior towards the later stages of dementia. This is because dementia is affecting their day-to-day living and quality of life, which is understandably aggravating and confusing. They may be so upset that they lash out.
People also ask: “Do people with dementia know they have it?” Not always, and if they become aware that they are suffering from dementia, it may be in a later stage when they realize they are unable to function the way they used to.
When To Seek Care for Dementia
If you or a loved one are noticing changes in everyday life due to memory loss, confusion, or growing difficulties performing routine tasks, you may want to see your doctor. The earlier someone is diagnosed with dementia, the more they can do about it. There are activities specifically designed to slow down cognitive decline, which are offered by facilities not only for assisted senior living but for drop-in clients as well. Find out more about dementia and what you can do about it on our resources page.