My grandfather contracted dementia in his 70s. At first, he seemed fine – just an occasional forgetfulness and absentminded pacing around the house. He still remembered to take his medication, and his signature chuckle regularly appeared. Then, he started to progress through the dementia stages.
His laughter faded and he became wheelchair-bound after a few falls. Nevertheless, the family continued to visit regularly and bring him to day care centres. Then, one day, most of our names were wiped from his memory.
Unfortunately, we did not see those stages coming – they don’t knock on your door to issue a warning. Instead, the dementia patient goes through the stages, with small changes in behaviour. To help you prepare for what to expect, we encourage you to familiarise the seven dementia stages in the Reisberg scale.
Dementia Stage 1: No cognitive decline
Your loved one will function normally, have no memory loss, and be mentally healthy. People with no dementia are considered to be in Stage 1.
Dementia Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline
Symptoms in this dementia stage aren’t very strongly felt. Forgetfulness associated with ageing occurs, but are not evident to families or physicians yet.
Dementia Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline
At this dementia stage, families often notice a decline in cognitive abilities: increased forgetfulness, slight difficulty concentrating, and troubles with problem-solving. Recognising mild cognitive decline alleviates stress as suitable dementia caregiving methods and medical options can be considered sooner rather than later.
Dementia Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline
Dementia patients start to experience more difficulty concentrating and decreased memory of recent events. They may be in denial and withdraw from their loved ones as socialising becomes tougher for them. My grandfather, for instance, began speaking less and staying at home more.
Dementia Stage 5: Severe cognitive decline
Your loved one usually requires some assistance to complete daily activities like dressing, bathing, and preparing meals. Major memory deficiencies may occur at this dementia stage and they may be unable to remember their address or know the time of the day.
Dementia Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline (mid-stage)
Extensive help is required to carry out daily activities at this dementia stage. Your loved one will start to forget names of their friends and family, and recent events. They may start to lose control of their bladder and bowel and face speech difficulties. Delusions and compulsions (repeating a simple behaviour) may occur as well.
Dementia Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline (late-stage)
During this dementia stage, your loved one will become unable to care for themselves. They will lose the ability to speak, walk, or smile, and suffer from communication and motor impairment. They will require even more love and care from their family members.
Now that you’ve familiarised yourself with the seven stages of dementia, you can help arrange for care specific to their needs. The process might be difficult but meaningful.