The 7 Stages of Dementia Explained

Dementia is a degenerative cognitive condition that develops in stages. Many patients with dementia are not diagnosed until they have progressed through at least a few stages of the disease. The most common system for diagnosing and monitoring the progression of dementia was developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg. This system includes seven stages to help caregivers and healthcare providers understand the cognitive function of someone dealing with any type of degenerative dementia like Alzheimer’s. The following are the seven stages of the disease and what you can expect.


Stage 1: No Decline

The first stage of dementia has no symptoms or memory problems. While there are no signs of disease at this stage, a growing body of research has shown there are ways to detect Alzheimer’s up to 10 years before symptoms appear.


Stage 2: Very Mild Decline

During stage 2, minor problems with memory may be noticeable. This stage is considered very mild decline as the memory loss can be easily mistaken for normal age-related memory loss. Someone with stage 2 dementia will perform well on memory tests and even loved ones will not know something is wrong.


Stage 3: Mild Decline

It’s during stage 3 that family members and friends usually begin to suspect something is wrong with their loved one. Someone with stage 3 dementia has mild decline, which means performance on cognitive and memory tests will be affected. A doctor will be able to notice some impaired cognitive function at this stage.

By stage 3, a senior with Alzheimer’s may struggle with:

  • Planning and staying organized
  • Remembering the names of recent acquaintances
  • Keeping track of belongings
  • Finding the right words during a conversation
  • Performing tasks at work

On average, people with stage 3 dementia remain in this phase for 7 years before the real onset of the disease.


Stage 4: Moderate Decline

At stage 4, someone with dementia will have even greater cognitive and memory problems. The classic signs of Alzheimer’s will be apparent at this point and a diagnosis may be made. Common issues in stage 4 dementia include:

  • Poor short term memory
  • Forgetting information about their own past
  • Trouble with simple math problems
  • Inability to manage finances

It’s common for seniors to begin withdrawing from friends and family members during this stage of the disease due to difficulty socializing and communicating. Many are aware that things are not quite right and this can cause embarrassment or denial. Someone with stage 4 dementia can usually still care for themselves with minor assistance.

On average, stage 4 of dementia lasts for about 2 years.


Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline

This stage is marked by a noticeable decline in memory. During the fifth stage of dementia, most people need help with daily activities. Common issues during stage 5 dementia include:

  • Difficulty getting dressed
  • Inability to remember simple details about themselves such as address
  • Severe confusion

People with stage 5 dementia can usually perform most daily activities on their own such as using the restroom and bathing. The patient usually still remembers family members and some information about themselves, especially about their early life.

On average, this stage lasts for 1.5 years.


Stage 6: Severe Decline

For loved ones, stage six of dementia is the most heartbreaking and difficult to accept. By the sixth stage of Alzheimer’s, patients need constant supervision. Professional care is often required. Someone with stage 6 dementia may have problems with:

  • Wandering away
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Inability to recognize most faces
  • Inability to remember most personal history
  • Severe confusion
  • Major personality changes. Some patients also develop behavior problems such as yelling and hitting.
  • Assistance is necessary for daily activities like toileting.

This stage lasts for 2.5 years on average.


Stage 7: Very Severe Decline

By this stage of dementia, most patients cannot speak or communicate. Assistance is necessary with almost all activities. Psychomotor skills like walking can also be lost. Patients quickly lose their ability to respond to their environment, although some words may still be uttered sometimes. At the end of stage 7, patients can also lose their ability to swallow.

While dementia can be a frightening diagnosis, many people live a long and fulfilling life after learning they have Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. The key to maintaining quality of life is staying active and getting help when it’s needed. Prosperity Pointe strives to be the best assisted living community in Knoxville. We provide compassionate memory care for seniors with dementia to help them thrive and enjoy life. Seniors can continue to live as independently as they are able with a caring caregiver on hand for help with daily tasks, medical appointments, and more.