Dementia is often referred to by health professionals as a disease that manifests in stages – the stages of dementia are indicating how far the disease has progressed and how much it affects the person’s abilities to function.
It is helpful to know how the symptoms usually change over time, even though it is different from person to person. If one of your family members is suffering from Dementia, this knowledge can help understand where they are, what to expect and how to prepare and assist them.
The global deterioration scale/ Reisberg scale for identifying the stages of dementia
The most well known and accepted scale to measure the progress of dementia is known as the GDS. Or the Reisberg scale, which divides the progress of dementia to seven stages, which are based on the level of decline in cognitive abilities.
Stages 1-3 preclinical-dementia
Stages 1-3 are the stages where brain cells start to deteriorate and die, but the person is still not showing any clear external signs of dementia:
- Stage 1: stage 1 means no cognitive declive at all, no memory loss, and normal function. People without dementia are considered stage 1.
- Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline. At this stage the person is still not diagnosed with dementia, but might start to forget names, where he/she placed objects, etc. but it happens quite rarely and is still not considered dementia
- Stage 3: mild cognitive decline. At this stage the symptoms start to show up more, and the person shows increased forgetfulness, difficulty in concentrating and usually decreased work performance.
Stage 4 – Early dementia
At stage 4 dementia the person starts to show moderate cognitive decline, and this is usually the stage where family relatives start to worry and when the diagnosis might be made. The signs of stage 4 include extreme difficulties in concentrating and focusing, forgetting recent events, difficulties managing one’s finances, travelling or completing familiar tasks. At this stage there are usually also emotional symptoms and social withdrawal.
Stage 5-6 – Middle dementia
- Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline. At this stage the person will show major memory loss and will need assistance with daily tasks such as dressing and bathing.
- Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline. At this stage the person is not able to carry out daily tasks without help, and starts to forget names and knowledge of family members, major events from the past (weddings, children, etc.), and loss of bladder control.
Stage 7 – Late dementia
Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline. At this stage the person is completely unable to speak or communicate, and loses motor skills.