If your loved one was recently diagnosed with dementia, you probably have a lot of questions: Are dementia and Alzheimer’s the same thing? What’s the difference? How long will until my mom will not be able to live at home anymore? How will I know when it’s the right time to consider moving my dad to a specialized memory care community?
Dementia is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time, but it progresses differently in everyone. Symptoms can range from mild memory loss to more severe cognitive difficulties that make it hard to manage daily activities without help.
The Reisberg Scale
These symptoms are broadly grouped into categories called stages. Many health care professionals divide dementia into a seven-stage scale called the Reisberg Scale, named for New York University physician and noted expert on aging Barry Reisberg.
Dividing dementia into stages helps health care professionals measure the progress of the disease. Becoming familiar with the stages of dementia can also give you and your family members a general idea of what your loved one’s future may hold so you can make plans accordingly.
Here’s a look at what you can typically expect from each stage of dementia. In the below scale, seniors in the first three stages typically don’t exhibit enough symptoms for a dementia diagnosis. By the time a diagnosis has been made, a person is typically in Stage 4, which is considered early dementia, and beyond. Stages 5 and 6 are considered middle dementia, and Stage 7 is considered late dementia.
When Is the Right Time for Memory Care?
During the fourth stage of dementia, it’s a good idea for caregivers and loved ones to discuss and make decisions about the future. For example, a long-term care plan should be made and financial and legal matters put in place.
By Stage 6, it usually becomes no longer safe to leave the individual alone, which means supervision is necessary.
At some point, the individual will be 100 percent dependent on their caregiver and will no longer be able to complete any daily living activities on their own. Not all families are equipped to offer this level of care. There are other options for care, such as hiring a part-time caregiver or moving your loved one to a memory care community.
It’s important to remember that the stages of dementia are somewhat fluid. Use them to help plan for future changes and to work with your doctor to develop solid treatment and long-term care plans.
To learn more about your long-term care options, download our eBook When Is the Right Time for Memory Care?, a guide for family caregivers on how to know when it’s the right time to consider moving an elderly parent or loved one to a memory care community.