If you or a loved one has recently received a dementia diagnosis, you may be feeling alone or isolated—but dementia is a condition that affects millions. There are 55 million people around the world who live with dementia. While dementia is a complex disease, and every person experiences it differently, the progression of the disease is often classified into three stages: early, middle, and late-stage dementia.Let’s talk about the differences in these three stages of dementia, the care associated with each stage, and how an assisted living community that provides a continuum of care can be an ideal fit for those living with dementia.
When dementia first sets in, symptoms can be minor. In fact, someone suffering from early-stage dementia may still drive, work, and participate in social activities. However, in this stage, people may feel a lapse in their memory and thinking abilities. For example, they may forget a common word or the location of something.
Given how the symptoms can happen sporadically and may not seem obvious, it’s important to monitor your loved one and seek medical attention when needed. If you notice any worrisome signs, speak with a doctor on how to proceed. Your loved one may need to head into the doctor's office for further evaluation.
Here are some symptoms that may occur in this stage:
- Trouble coming up with the right words or phrases
- Difficulty remembering names or places
- Forgetting something that was just learned
- Constantly losing belongings
- Having trouble completing tasks
- Difficulty planning or organizing
If these symptoms persist, be sure to speak with a doctor.
Since many people at this stage can still be mostly independent, when someone receives a dementia diagnosis at this stage, the most important thing to offer is a good support system. They do well with a loving family that’s there when they need them.
When caring for someone in this stage, try to support their independence. This may require keeping track of a calendar, upcoming appointments, medications, meals, and more. However, always speak to your loved ones about their needs. They may need more or less support than you’re giving them.
While early-stage dementia can last for many years, the middle stage can last even longer. In fact, it’s typically the longest of the dementia stages. As the disease has progressed, the need for further care is elevated. In this stage, many of the common dementia symptoms are more severe.
Middle-stage dementia patients experience debilitating symptoms that impact their quality of life. As the disease progresses and nerve cells are further damaged, patients can have trouble forming thoughts and performing everyday tasks. This can cause them to feel angry, sad, and depressed. But, just like the previous stage, being there for support is essential.
Here are the common symptoms associated with middle-stage dementia:
- Tendency to wander or become lost
- Forgetting past events or someone’s name
- Feeling mental strain when thinking
- Difficulty in socially challenging situations
- Extreme confusion
- Forgetting what day it is
- Not knowing where they are
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Personality and behavior changes
When these symptoms occur, it’s important to keep your loved one calm and comfortable.
As a caregiver, caring for someone with middle-stage dementia requires a great deal of patience. While the symptoms will be more severe, this will increase your level of responsibility. As always, the most important goal is to keep the dementia patient as comfortable as possible.
Once a caregiver gets established with a patient, they find strategies that work for the needs of the individual. As dementia varies from one patient to the next, following a patient-focused care plan is the right approach.
In the last of the dementia stages, late-stage dementia, the symptoms are at their peak. Someone may lose their sense of reality, and they may eventually have trouble moving at all. During this stage, communication also becomes difficult. They may still form words or phrases, but building full sentences is often a serious challenge. As cognitive skills decline, drastic personality and mood changes may occur.
During this stage, dementia patients may:
- Have problems walking, sitting, or even swallowing
- Lose awareness of their surroundings
- Forget about recent experiences
- Have troubling speaking and communicating
- Be more prone to infections, such as pneumonia
Given these debilitating symptoms, late-stage dementia patients often need around-the-clock care.
As the disease is at its worst stage, caregiving responsibilities are extensive. In fact, a patient may need 24/7 assistance to help with bathing, cooking, medications, and more.
At this stage, dementia patients mostly experience the world through their senses. That said, caregivers will often play their favorite music, read to them, or simply sit outside together on a nice day.
Can Assisted Living Help?
Assisted living that provides a continuum of care can help avoid stressful moves for loved ones with dementia as their care needs increase with the progression of the disease. By increasing the amount of care as needed for each individual community member, A continuum of care regularly evaluates the care needs of a community member and makes adjustments to ensure your loved one has what they need while still offering them independence.
Additionally, moving a loved one in a later stage of dementia to another care facility to better meet their needs can cause more frustration and confusion. A community that can adapt to the care needs of their community members reduces stress for seniors and families while providing excellent care.
Here at Vista Springs, we provide a continuum of care at our facilities so our community members can age in place. If your loved one is experiencing dementia, we have a reliable, professional care for every stage of the condition.