Understanding Progressive stages of dementia before death

July 4, 2024 - Reading time: 9 minutes

Watching a loved one decline through the progressive stages of dementia before death is an incredibly heartbreaking experience. It is like witnessing the unravelling of a beautiful tapestry, with each stage bringing new challenges and uncertainties. As the disease progresses, specialised care becomes crucial, especially in the later stages that lead to the end of life.

Health professionals often refer to dementia in terms of stages, which helps them understand the extent of the death or disease and tailor the best treatment approach. This classification also facilitates effective communication between healthcare providers, carers, and caregivers, ensuring that the patient receives the utmost care and support.

Understanding the stages of dementia patients' deaths is critical to ensuring the provision of compassionate and tailored care and support. From the early signs of forgetfulness and confusion to the severe cognitive impairments that dominate the later stages, navigating the labyrinth of dementia requires patience, knowledge, and a deep understanding of the individual's unique needs.

Join us as we explore the progressive stages of dementia and delve into the complexities of end-of-life care in this comprehensive guide. Through careful research and expert insights, we will shed light on the physical, emotional, and cognitive changes that occur at each stage. 

Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment Toolkit

Dementia is a progressive condition, and the stages can vary, but they generally include:

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI):

In this early stage, commonly found in people aged over 65, there may be subtle memory and cognitive issues, but daily functioning is not significantly affected.

Health professionals do suggest active lifestyles and balanced diets as initial treatments for mild cognitive impairment. This includes mental and physical exercise, learning how to play an instrument or learn a new language, and being socially active. (for example, walking, puzzles, Sudoku, reading, and seeing friends and family). If you do have underlined problems, i.e., diabetes, we strongly advise you to contact your doctor.

Early Stage:

Symptoms become very noticeable, including memory loss, confusion, poor judgement, mood changes, speech difficulties, and task difficulty. However, individuals can still function independently. Accidents and embracing events could be more noticeable. We highly advise not to ignore accidents and to use labels to guide the living environment. It is recommended to consider creating a dementia-friendly home environment that includes a bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen.

Healthcare professionals are advised to continue an active lifestyle. It’s not too early to consider future planning, including finance, property, care, or funeral arrangements.

“My father has microwaved the rice plate with a mettle spoon; he was convinced that had never occurred before! I had to act quickly to secure the microwave plug with a little padlock. It's heartbreaking! My actions may have taken away his very simple, self-sufficient daily activity. At the end of the day, efforts must be made to prevent a fire in the house.” - Jay-Newport    

Middle Stage:

There is a more noticeable cognitive decline. People with dementia may experience mood swings, struggle with communicating, and require support with everyday tasks. Furthermore, anxiety, despair, and apathy frequently persist until the latter stages of dementia. During this phase, people with dementia begin to develop delusions—strong beliefs that aren't true. They frequently experience paranoia—the belief that others will hurt them or cannot be trusted.

We strongly advise taking immediate steps to create a dementia-friendly living space to avoid falls and dangerous behaviours.

Late Stage:

Severe cognitive decline occurs, and individuals become increasingly dependent on others for all aspects of care. They may lose the ability to communicate, walk, and control bodily functions.

End-of-life stages can vary widely, and they are characterised by increased physical frailty, reduced mobility, and difficulty swallowing. Care in these stages is primarily focused on comfort and quality of life. It's important to consult with healthcare professionals for a personalised understanding of the stages in a specific case.


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