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Understanding The 7 Stages Of Dementia Before Death; Helping Your Loved One Cope

When you have a loved one with dementia, it can be challenging to care for them. As a family caregiver, you need to understand that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are progressive brain disorders that make it challenging for your loved one to remember things and people, communicate with you and others, take care of their daily tasks, and think clearly.

Additionally, dementia can change your loved one’s personality, mood swings, and behavior.

Understanding the stages of dementia your loved one may go through, will help you prepare psychologically, physically, and financially for it. Watching your aging parents lose their identity, struggle with memory loss, and not perform their daily activities can be frustrating and painful.

Sometimes, with dementia, there is confusion and fear, which can take a toll on the family. Knowing what to expect will help you cope and offer the necessary support when your loved one requires it.

a young woman consoling her grandmother after a dementia diagnosis

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a term that describes a group of symptoms that lead to loss of clear thinking, problem-solving ability, memory, reasoning, and the ability to remember. These symptoms develop when diseases like Vascular or Alzheimer’s damage the brain enough to interfere with a person’s daily activities.

Dementia severity may range from the mild stage, when you notice some functioning failure in your loved one’s daily activity, to the severe stage, where a senior will have to completely depend on you and other family members with their activities of daily living, like dressing and feeding.

Dementia affects millions of people; it is not a part of aging, although it’s more prevalent in the senior population. When caring for a loved one, it can be difficult to know the stage of dementia they are in, but you can look out for some signs. Some of the signs to look out for are

  • Memory loss
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Behavioral changes
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Problems in understanding and language

You need to understand that dementia is a progressive brain disorder, with its symptoms worsening with time. Additionally, when a loved one loses one’s cognitive ability due to dementia, you should know that they will never recover that ability, and this means you should be mentally prepared to watch your loved one lose a part of themselves as dementia progresses. What is crucial is to be consistent, and strong, and support them.

a senior woman consoling her husband after he started showing dementia symptoms

Common Types of Dementia

There are several types of dementia. They include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease,
  • Frontotemporal dementia,
  • vascular dementia,
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Lewy body disease (affects people with Parkinson’s disease)
  • Rare types of dementia due to some medical conditions,.

The 7 Stages of Dementia Before Death

Stage 1

During this stage, your loved one will have normal outward behavior, and their quality of life will not be affected by dementia.

You or your loved one will not notice any symptoms. However, if you are concerned, you can start planning with your loved one.

There are some tools that your loved one can use to write down their priorities and values regarding the type of care they would like to have during the later stages of dementia.

a happy couple enjoying their time together before noting any cognitive changes in their lives

Stage 2

During this stage, your loved one may not experience significant changes and will maintain their ability to perform various activities of their daily living. You may have to offer minimal support during this stage.

Some of the changes you will note will resemble the normal aging process. You can talk with your loved one about their changing abilities and work a plan for their future together. Some of the signs to look out for during this stage include:

  • Difficulties in finding the right words during a conversation
  • Making up or substituting some words for others.

Knowing that your loved one may feel overwhelmed and apprehensive about their uncertain future is crucial. Although you may have mixed emotions and fear for your loved one’s future, you need to remain strong and let them know they can count on you during the progression of dementia.

You can help your loved one plan for their future and let them write down their likes, priorities, and values. Additionally, it’s important to talk about the type of care they would like to have during the later stages of dementia.

Stage 3

You will notice some mild cognitive changes in a senior during this stage; when you see some changes in your loved ones’ reasoning and thinking, be keen, as this could be an indication of mild-stage dementia. Other signs that could be an indication of stage 3 dementia are:

  • Some memory loss
  • Forgetfulness (for instance, a senior may forget where they put an item and they can’t seem to retrace their steps in retrieving it),
  • Requires more effort in managing their money and medications, and remembering their appointments
  • Start having problems at work
  • Short attention span
  • Experiences difficulty in expressing themselves

During this stage, you can help your loved one retain their lifestyle by

  • Helping them with their medication
  • Organizing their appointments
  • Helping them pay their bills
  • If possible, start driving them
  • Help them put their legal and finances in order.

Stage 4

During this stage, some mild or moderate changes in your loved one’s quality of life occur. At this stage, a senior will recall most of their past and even recognize their family and friends. Some of the signs that you can watch out for in stage 4 dementia include:

  • Your loved one may start forgetting familiar names and words
  • Forget where they kept their items like phones or eyeglasses
  • Feel uncomfortable while visiting unfamiliar places
  • Make mistakes while driving
  • Find it difficult to find the right words during a conversation
  • Forgetting the recent past
  • Need help solving problems.

One way of preparing your loved one for this stage is by helping them plan for when their dementia deteriorates. You can help drive them around, meet with their healthcare provider, and assist them with activities of daily living.

Stage 5

A senior will likely remember some of their past and even recognize their family and friends. This stage is characterized by a moderate mental decline that impacts the quality of their lives.

Your loved one may have trouble making crucial decisions concerning their lives, like healthcare, legal, and finances.

When it comes to this stage, you will notice:

  • Mood swings
  • A personality change
  • Gaps in your loved one’s memory where you note they are confused about the date, their location, or forget their phone and address
  • Bladder issues
  • They may be unable to choose clothes that go with the weather
  • May be unable to use the toilet properly
  • May need assistance with performing activities of daily living

During this stage, it’s crucial to talk with your loved one’s healthcare provider and discuss the various available senior care options. Additionally, you can help your loved one by being patient and answering their questions whenever they ask.

Stage 6

This stage is characterized by severe cognitive decline, whereby your loved one fails to remember any of their past. They will also fail to recognize you and other family members and friends. At this stage, a senior may require full-time care at home. During this stage, you may notice the following:

  • Delusions
  • Strong personality changes
  • Severe mood swings
  • Inability to sleep well at night but can sleep well at daytime
  • Wandering
  • Inability to perform activities of daily living properly,
  • Bladder issues
  • Changes in a senior’s eating habits,
  • Confusion

It would help if you worked hand-in-hand with your loved ones’ healthcare team during this stage. You can also assist your loved one with daily living activities such as toileting, dressing, patiently answering their questions, and trying to connect with them by listening to their favorite music together.

Stage 7

Your loved one will experience very severe cognitive decline that will severely impact their lives. This stage calls for round-the-clock senior care as your loved one will:

  • Be unable to perform activities of daily living like bathing, eating, and toileting
  • May lose the ability to eat and swallow
  • Lose the ability to talk and express themselves
  • Have incontinence
  • Be unable to walk or sit unaided
  • Lose their muscle control
  • Be disoriented
  • Fail to recognize family and friends.

a caregiver assisting a bedridden senior experiencing memory loss


The Role of Assisted Living in Providing Dementia Care

Having a dementia diagnosis is one of the hardest things a senior and their family will have to face. For many families, this marks the beginning of an uncertain journey toward the unknown. However, you don’t have to panic; several resources will guide you during this challenging journey.

One way of dealing with dementia is by accepting and learning more about it. By doing this, you will equip yourself to face the challenges that accompany dementia during various stages. You can also look into assisted living as a senior care option for your loved one.

Assisted living is an ideal senior option, especially when your loved one is in the later stages of dementia. These facilities ensure their residents have the best care and stay healthy and comfortable.

At Amy’s Eden, our caregivers are trained to ensure each senior receives the care that best suits them. Our caregivers attend most of the Dementia and Alzheimer’s support groups, ensuring they are up to date with the current trends in senior care.

a caregiver helping an older man in an assisted living home

The Importance of Specialized Care and Trained Professionals

Caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be an exhausting experience. You want what is best for your loved one; their safety and comfort come first.

Sometimes, it may not be easy to provide the level of care your loved one requires, especially if you have to juggle work and your family. Choosing an assisted living home for your loved one can be one of the best decisions you can make regarding your loved one’s care plan.

When you engage the services of trained and specialized professionals, you and your loved one will reap the following benefits:

  • The caregivers at assisted living homes are specially trained to deal with and help residents facing unique challenges that accompany dementia,
  • Your loved one will have round-the-clock care.
  • You will have peace of mind knowing your loved one is in great hands.
  • If you are a family caregiver, you can take advantage of the respite care services offered by assisted living homes.
  • Various cognitive stimulating activities to slow down the progression of the disease.

If you are considering an assisted living home as a care option for your loved one, look for one that specializes in dementia care. The benefits of trained and specialized care for your loved one can make an immense difference in their quality of life

At Amy’s Eden, we pride ourselves on providing unique and specialized dementia care to our residents. Our passionate caregivers help in providing holistic senior care to our dementia residents. We work hand-in-hand with your loved one’s healthcare providers, nutritionists, and specialists (physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, geriatricians, among others).


The Unique Services and Support Offered by Assisted Living Communities

Assisted living homes provide meals, housing, and assistance with activities of daily living, which are essential to seniors. However, if you find an assisted living home providing dementia care, your loved one will have security as they may tend to wander off. Other benefits of moving your loved one to an assisted living home, especially if they have dementia, include the following:



Most assisted living homes offer safety features like a fenced compound, emergency-alert systems, keypad entries, doorbells indicating when a person exits or enters the premises, and staff that keeps checking on the residents to ensure they are fine.



Although amenities may vary depending on the different assisted living homes, most offer the following amenities:

  • Gardens
  • Beauty salons
  • Transportation services
  • Pet-friendly residences
  • Music rooms
  • Art and craft
  • Swimming
  • Gym


Excellent Memory Care

Staff at an assisted living home are well trained and have the necessary experience in assisting residents with their daily tasks. However, staff at a memory or an assisted living home offering dementia care are trained to provide excellent memory care that is tailor-made to fit your loved one’s needs. This training and experience help your loved one maintain their cognitive skills for longer, a sense of themselves, and lead a quality lifestyle.


Cognitive Therapies and Activities

When your loved one moves into an assisted living home offering dementia care, they will benefit from memory care therapies and activities that are designed to help them. These activities and therapies focus mainly on sensory stimulation, structure, cultivating engagement, and ensuring your loved one gets direct sunlight as much as possible.

These activities aim to reduce the effects of sundowning in dementia residents. Additionally, these activities will help a senior sleep well and help them enjoy their days.




Benefits of Tailored Activities and Therapies For Individuals With Dementia

The Tailored Activities and Therapies Program (TAP) is an evidence-based senior care program for people with dementia and their caregivers. TAP is a program that you and your loved one can enjoy from the comfort of your home or at an assisted living or memory care facility.

This program provides health professionals and occupational therapists (OT) whose main focus is to identify the abilities and interests of people living with dementia. The OT will provide education on dementia and other diseases and develop an approach that helps caregivers use selected activities as part of their daily senior care routine.

TAP aims at providing long-term senior care to people with dementia and their caregivers, as this will reduce agitation and stress. This program is, in essence, a reasoning tool that helps in the rehabilitation of dementia. One of its strong points is the concrete and simple solutions to complex situations.

a senior woman with her daughter taking part in a TAP at home

Coping With The Stages of Dementia As A Family

A dementia diagnosis is one of the hardest challenges you will face as a family, and you need to come up with a coping mechanism. You will face emotional and financial challenges, and you will need to be strong to support your loved one.


Emotional Challenges and Support Needed For Family Members

Dealing with conflicting emotions will be one challenge that you will have to overcome during your journey with a person living with dementia. Feelings of inadequacy, frustration, fear, grief, disbelief, and denial are some of the most common during the early stages of dementia for both you and your loved one.

During this stage, you should encourage your loved one to express themselves and pursue activities that interest them and add meaning and value to their lives. To face your fears and conflicting emotions, you should look for someone to confide in this can be a mental health therapist, or peers from online or physical support groups.

Research on dementia and find readily available resources, as they will help you provide effective and excellent dementia care. You can start by searching for Alzheimer’s or dementia associations in your area, as they will offer useful tips, advice, support, and training for you and your family.

Learn all you can about dementia, as this will greatly help you understand the changes in your loved one. Although dementia experiences differ with individuals, the more you learn about it, the better prepared you will be for the rough road ahead.

a husband comforting his wife who is caring for their older parents after a tough day

Communication Strategies and Maintaining Quality of Life

Communicating with your loved one when they have dementia can be challenging as they may have trouble remembering. A senior will easily become anxious, agitated, and even angry, especially when they think you are not paying close attention to what they are telling you.

In most cases, they may be saying the same thing over and over. In some instances, your loved one may have trouble with their speech and finding the right words during a conversation. This could lead to frustration, but you need to understand your loved one, and that dementia contributes to these communication challenges.

To help with communication, you can:

  • Reassure your loved one
  • Speak calmly
  • Listen keenly to your loved one
  • Allow your loved one to maintain control over their lives as much as possible.
  • Respect your loved one’s personal space
  • Try to distract your loved one with an activity they love, like going through the family album when you realize you are having trouble communicating with them.
  • Encourage the conversation between yourself and them for as long as possible.
  • Try to remind the person who you are in their lives and avoid asking them if they don’t remember you.
  • Keep your loved one’s cherished photos and objects around the house, as this will help them feel safe and secure.


The Importance of Self-care for Caregivers

Despite doing everything in your power, caring for a person with dementia is challenging as the condition deteriorates with time. As time goes by, your loved one will depend more on you for their care. You will need all the support you can get to continue providing the best care to a senior. There are various ways you can take care of yourself while caring for a person with dementia:

  • Have an active social life, as this will help keep loneliness and isolation away
  • Connect with other caregivers by joining a caregiver support group near you or online,
  • Take care of your overall health
  • Acknowledge that you may be grieving the loss of your loved one’s abilities due to dementia
  • Be positive and use humor to diffuse some situations
  • Make use of respite caregivers and have ample time to spend on yourself
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed
  • Eat healthy and nutritious meals
  • Take breaks now and then during your workday
  • Exercise daily (yoga or even an evening walk)

a caregiver relaxing in their backyard while taking a break


While dementia experiences differ with each individual, the journey through all the stages almost follows the same path. Every stage of dementia comes with new symptoms, and sometimes the existing ones worsen. Knowing what to expect and look out for will help you care for your loved one better.

During the 7 stages of dementia before death, you should expect the following:

  • Stage 1: you will notice no cognitive decline in your loved one, although the deterioration of the brain has started.
  • Stage 2: you will notice very mild or minor cognitive decline
  • Stage 3: mild cognitive decline starts manifesting.
  • Stage 4: you will notice moderate cognitive decline,
  • Stage 5: the cognitive decline is moderately severe during this stage
  • Stage 6: your loved one will experience severe cognitive decline
  • Stage 7: this stage is characterized by very severe cognitive decline.

It’s almost impossible to know how long it will take a senior to go through all the seven stages of dementia before death. Since dementia symptoms deteriorate with time, you should be prepared as your loved one will continue to rely on you for their needs as the disease worsens over time.

If the idea of going through a dementia diagnosis seems overwhelming for you and your loved one, Amy’s Eden is here to help you navigate through this journey. Our compassionate caregivers will offer excellent dementia care and guide you in finding support groups near you, as this will make your journey easier. We offer free guidance, and we are willing and ready to discuss available dementia care options for your loved one. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your loved one thrive regardless of dementia.

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