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How Does Dementia Progress?



  • Dementia is a degenerative neurological disorder that interferes with normal brain function and makes it difficult for a person to remember, communicate or learn. Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, lewd body dementia and frontotemporal dementia are the four most common types of dementia. Symptoms of dementia vary by individual. Although dementia is a progressive disease, it may take years for mild symptoms to become severe.

Early Dementia

  • One of the first signs of dementia is short-term memory loss. A person in the early stages of dementia will start misplacing objects or forgetting a recent event or conversation. For example, a person might not remember what she planned to buy when she arrives at a store.
    An afflicted person may also become easily disoriented in new surroundings, appear unwilling or unable to learn new skills and have trouble concentrating. She functions well in familiar surroundings such as her home. Family and friends may not even recognize early dementia symptoms until it progresses to mild dementia.

Mild Dementia

    • When mild dementia develops, a person experiences frequent short-term memory loss and shows obvious signs of disorientation in new surroundings and poor concentration. A person may need help to adjust to a new place. He might have a short attention span. He may be unable to learn new things. Yet, a person with mild dementia can still live independently with minimal support from relatives.

Moderate Dementia

  • In the moderate dementia stage, a person may not be able to live alone. The memory loss and disorientation impair her ability to function normally. She will also begin to show signs of a personality change and may appear frequently irritable. For example, she may think that people are stealing her things when she misplaces things. She is unable to make a decision. Hallucinations and poor personal hygiene are also common. This is a difficult stage for family members because the afflicted person is often oblivious to the health changes and resists help.

Severe Dementia

  • A person with severe dementia needs supervised care in an assisted living facility. He experiences both mental and physical health problems. He may be unaware of the present and focus on past events. He might experience a complete personality change. He is unable to care for his personal hygiene and may experience incontinence. He might appear physically frail from muscle shrinkage, poor coordination and tremors. His speech capacity may significantly diminish or be lost. He might lose the ability to swallow and need to be fed intravenously. A person with severe dementia may also become bedridden.

Dementia Treatment Options

  • While there is no cure for dementia, medication and therapy can help slow the progress of some cases of dementia. Medication such as cholinesterase inhibitors, memantine, antipsychotics and tranquilizers can help treat dementia symptoms. It is important for a person with dementia symptoms to see a doctor for a correct diagnosis. Despite the grim outlook, the right medical treatment can improve a person’s chances of living a full and healthy life.

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