Mental and Physical Deterioration Continues Through the Three Stages of Dementia
Dementia is a progressive disease. It cannot be cured, so once an individual has it, they will gradually lose more and more of their faculties throughout the rest of their lives. Although the stages of the disease can vary from person to person, there are three basic stages all patients pass through. During this time, they will experience severe memory loss, a decrease in their mental abilities, increasing difficulty in reasoning and speaking, and possibly even the ability to care for themselves. As hard as the condition is on patients, it can also be quite debilitating for those caring for them, and it helps to understand what you can expect.
You may not notice when a person starts suffering from dementia, because the symptoms are so similar to those you expect as a person ages. Most patients are diagnosed after the age of 65 and will start out having mild memory lapses and bouts with forgetfulness. In the early stage, which may take months or even years to play out, comes such non-alarming symptoms as absentmindedness, apathy, loss of interest in normal pursuits, personality change, mood swings, and irritability. These changes come on gradually, and you may not be able to tell that the person is suffering from dementia until they reach the second stage of the disease.
The second stage is known as moderate dementia. By this point in the progression, you will be able to identify the symptoms for what they are. Individuals in this stage exhibit a decline in their cognitive abilities, the inability to know where they are and the time, short-term memory, difficulty identifying even close family members, and may struggle to perform personal activities, like eating, taking care of their personal hygiene, or bathing themselves. You can expect that the person will be increasingly anxious, frustrated, and irritated. You may also begin to see evidence of auditory or visual hallucinations.
The advanced stage of dementia is when all the severe symptoms show up. Advanced stage dementia patients require constant care due to the serious nature of their symptoms. By this point they will have significant memory loss, be unable to identify anyone as well as possessions they use on a daily basis, and maybe even be unable to walk without assistance. You will find them to be restless, not capable of taking care of their personal needs, unable to sleep, and incontinent. Due to the amount of supervision and help that a person with this degree of dementia will need, this is the point where many loved ones place them in a nursing facility that specializes in dealing with dementia patients.
Dementia isn't pleasant in any of it's stages, but it's becoming a reality for more and more Americans and their loved ones all the time. Even though every patient may not show the symptoms in exactly the same way, all of them will become progressively debilitated until such a time when medical science can uncover a way to more effectively treat the disease.