The progression, signs and stages of dementia (2024)

What do we mean by signs and stages of dementia?

There are many different types of dementia and all of them are progressive. This means symptoms may be relatively mild at first but they get worse with time, usually over several years. These include problems with memory, thinking, problem-solving orlanguage, and often changes in emotions, perception or behaviour.

As dementia progresses, a person will need more help and, at some point, will need a lot of support with daily living. However, dementia is different foreveryone, so it will vary how soon this happensand the type of support needed.

It can be helpful to think of there being three stages of dementia:

These are sometimes called mild, moderate and severe, because this describes how much the symptomsaffect a person.

These stages can be used to understand how dementia is likely to change over time, and to help people prepare for the future. The stages also act as a guide to when certain treatments, such as medicines for Alzheimer’s disease, are likely to work best.

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How important are the stages of dementia?

The stages of dementia are just a guide and there is nothing significant about the number three. Equally,dementia doesn’t follow an exact or certain set of steps that happen in the same way for every personwith dementia.

It can be difficult to tell when a person’s dementia has progressed from one stage to another because:

  • some symptoms may appear in a different order to the stages described in this factsheet, or not at all
  • the stages may overlap – the person may need help with someaspects of everyday life but manage other tasks and activities on their own
  • some symptoms, particularly those linked to behaviours, may develop at one stage and then reduce or even disappear later on. Other symptoms, such as memory loss and problems with language and thinking, tend to stay and get worse with time.

It is natural to ask which stage a person is at or what might happen next. But it is more important to focus on the person in the present moment. This includes their needs and how they can live well, and how to help them with this.

For more support on living well with dementia seeThe dementia guide: living well after diagnosis(for people livingwith dementia) or Caring for a person with dementia: a practical guide (for carers).

And for more information about treatment and support for the different types of dementia go to the following pages:

The progression, signs and stages of dementia (2024)


The progression, signs and stages of dementia? ›

There are many different types of dementia and all of them are progressive. This means symptoms may be relatively mild at first but they get worse with time, usually over several years. These include problems with memory, thinking, problem-solving or language, and often changes in emotions, perception or behaviour.

At what stage of dementia should you not live alone? ›

The short answer is that it will depend on the stage of dementia that the person is in. For example, a stage one or mild dementia with a little bit of forgetfulness can be lived with. However, more severe stage four dementia means that support from outsiders and family members will be required.

What is the average time from dementia diagnosis to death? ›

Alzheimer's disease – around eight to 10 years. Life expectancy is less if the person is diagnosed in their 80s or 90s. A few people with Alzheimer's live for longer, sometimes for 15 or even 20 years. Vascular dementia – around five years.

What are the final days of dementia? ›

Signs of the final stages of dementia include some of the following: Being unable to move around on one's own. Being unable to speak or make oneself understood. Eating problems such as difficulty swallowing.

How long does each stage of dementia last? ›

Stages of dementia life expectancy
StageExpected Duration of StageExpected Life Expectancy (years remaining)
Stage 1: No cognitive declineN/AN/A
Stage 2: Very mild cognitive declineUnknownMore than 10 years
Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline2-7 years10 years
Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline2 years3 to 8 years
3 more rows

What are three things to never do with your loved one with dementia? ›

Here are some Don'ts:
  • Don't reason.
  • Don't argue.
  • Don't confront.
  • Don't remind them they forget.
  • Don't question recent memory.
  • Don't take it personally.

How long can a person with dementia live at home alone? ›

There is no fixed point at which it is no longer practical or safe for a person with dementia to live alone. However, you might want to consider their ability to: make everyday decisions. prepare food.

At what stage do dementia patients forget family members? ›

Stage 6: Severe Mental Decline/Moderately Severe Dementia

Your loved one will not remember much or any of the past and may not recognize you and other family and friends.

When is the right time to put a dementia patient in a home? ›

The Alzheimer's Association recommends that people consider whether the health and safety of the person with dementia is at risk. Additionally, if someone with dementia is feeling isolated, a care home may provide a more social setting for them, with regular structure and interactions with staff or other residents.

What is the number one trigger for dementia behavior? ›

Pain or Discomfort: General pain, side effects from medications, lack of sleep, and inability to describe their discomfort are all common symptoms that can trigger aggressive behavior or lashing out. Environment: This is the most common trigger for aggressive behavior in dementia patients.

What is the surge before death in dementia patients? ›

Terminal lucidity is a type of mental energy surge before death. This is when a person who has a condition that affects their brain, can suddenly think and speak clearly. For example, a person who has dementia may remember and speak the names of family members — even if they haven't been able to do so for a long time.

What do dementia eyes look like? ›

You can't tell whether someone has dementia by looking in their eyes. However, vision loss commonly occurs among people with dementia. It's not clear whether vision loss causes dementia or vice versa. It may be that both sight loss and dementia are more common among older adults.

Should you let a dementia patient sleep all day? ›

It can be hard to stay awake during the day after a poor night's sleep but, if possible, it's best to try to limit sleep during the day to small bursts or 'catnaps'. Otherwise the person's body clock can become very confused and this makes sleeping well during the night even harder.

What triggers dementia to get worse? ›

What triggers dementia to get worse? Dementia is a progressive disease, so it will gradually get worse over time. However, external factors, such as a brain injury or sudden change in routine, can trigger a sudden worsening of dementia symptoms.

How do I know what stage of dementia someone is in? ›

But dementia often progresses through three stages. The early stage is when someone experiences mild symptoms, such as confusion and misplacing items. They are still largely independent at this stage. The middle stage is when someone might need assistance to perform daily tasks, such as eating and bathing.

Does a person with dementia know they are confused? ›

In the earlier stages, memory loss and confusion may be mild. The person with dementia may be aware of — and frustrated by — the changes taking place, such as difficulty recalling recent events, making decisions or processing what was said by others. In the later stages, memory loss becomes far more severe.

Should a person with dementia be left alone overnight? ›

While it may not necessarily be illegal to leave a person with dementia alone, when cognitive function begins to decline or a loved one loses the ability to communicate, they may require 24-hour care, protection, and support.

When should someone with dementia go into a care home? ›

People with dementia might need to move into a residential care home for various reasons, such as: their needs have increased as their dementia has progressed. their condition has deteriorated after a crisis, such as a hospital admission. their family or home carer is no longer able to support them.

What does stage 4 dementia look like? ›

Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline

In this stage, a person sometimes becomes confused about where they are and what is happening. They may struggle to perform routine tasks as well as complex ones, and they will likely need help with household management tasks like paying bills or cooking.

How do you know when someone with dementia can no longer live alone? ›

Some common signs that a person with dementia can no longer live independently include: They are struggling with personal hygiene. Their home is beginning to get messy, dirty, or unhygienic. They are losing weight or struggling with food preparation.

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