If a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of Dementia, you know you will be facing a hard road ahead. Seeing a family member or loved one’s mental state deteriorate can be a trying emotional experience, but knowing what to expect can help ease the mental burden. By understanding the 7 stages of dementia, you will be able to provide valuable assistance to your loved one at each step in their progression.

The 7 Stages of Dementia

Although there are different common classifications of Dementia’s stages, the progression is most often divided into seven parts. Here are the different stages and what you can do to help a loved one at each one:

  1. Normal Behavior. Because the mental deterioration associated with dementia consists of a steady progression, the early stages are not yet classified as Dementia proper. In stage one, there are no outward signs of any mental decline. This is the perfect time to talk to an elderly parent or other relative about their wishes, should they begin to decline mentally—and to make sure the right legal documents are in place!
  2. Very Mild Changes/Forgetfulness. At this stage, changes will be subtle and, in some cases, you may not notice them at all. They include light memory loss and difficulty finding the right words. At this stage, you should be absolutely sure that your loved one’s living will and health care proxy are in place, and you will need to begin watching them more closely.
  3. Mild Changes. At Stage 3, the signs of dementia will begin to be more noticeable. Memory loss will become more acute, with your loved one having difficulty with words and names, and trouble paying attention. You will have to begin taking a more active role in managing aspects of their lives, including paying bills, making appointments, and ensuring that they take their daily medications.
  4. Moderate Decline/Mild Dementia. At this stage, your parent or relative can be said to be experiencing the early stages of Dementia. They will still remember most of their past and they will know who you are. That said, their memory will continue to decline, with short term memory difficulties becoming especially prevalent. They will require more help with everyday tasks and will likely need someone to look after them daily. They will also no longer be able to drive.
  5. Moderately Severe Decline/Moderate Dementia. By now, your loved one is entering mid-stage Dementia. They will begin experiencing personality and mood changes and begin to have problems with bathroom use and eating. They will still recognize you, but will begin to forget some of their past. At this point, they will need more intensive care, such as help with dressing and bathing. If you are unable to provide this level of care, you will need to begin making arrangements to hire a health care professional.
  6. Severe Decline/Moderately Severe Dementia. In stage 6, memory loss becomes more significant and your loved one may no longer recognize you. They will forget most of their past and need significant help performing daily tasks. At this point, in addition to ensuring health care assistance, you will want to find ways to continue to connect to your loved one. Even simply talking to them can help.
  7. Very Severe Decline/Late-Stage Dementia. In late-stage dementia, your loved one will not remember anything of their past or recognize anyone they used to know. They will no longer be able to speak or eat by themselves and they will lose all bathroom function. They will require 24-hour assistance. Helping them with any daily tasks you can and continuing to talk to them can help out in a difficult situation.

Dealing with a loved one going through the stages of dementia can be an emotionally trying situation. That’s why it’s important to prepare ahead of time so you know what to expect. Working with a loved one to ensure that all their health care documents are in place, in particular, can help give you peace of mind. That way, if your parent or other relative does begin to experience cognitive decline, you can be sure you will have the authority to make financial and medical decisions for them, and be operating according to their wishes moving forward.

Contact Miller Estate & Elder Law

At Miller Estate and Elder Law, we have many years of experience helping clients navigate the complexities of the estate planning process. Having the right legal documents in place now can save you from a major headache later. Contact us today to get started providing for your and your family’s future, or complete the brief form below to download our free guide: The 5 Legal Documents Every Adult Needs.

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