What Can I Expect as Dementia Progresses?
One of the first questions in most people’s minds when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia is, “What can I expect as dementia progresses in the weeks, months, and years to come?” We understand that the hallmark of dementia is the increasing decline in cognitive abilities as well as the skills needed to manage daily life. However, each person progresses through these changes at a different pace. There are a variety of factors that will influence the rate of decline, such as:
- Prescription drugs the individual is taking
- Overall health and physical makeup
- The circle of support in place
- The individual’s general emotional wellbeing and resilience
There are also other determinants to take into account based on the specific type of dementia diagnosed. As an example:
- MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment): Mild cognitive impairment affects up to 20% of seniors. More than the standard minor cognitive decline experienced in aging, MCI involves problems with language, thinking, judgment, and memory. These changes are apparent to the older adult individually and frequently to others as well. Medical researchers discovered that about 38% of seniors with MCI later developed dementia. The other 62% never progressed further than MCI – and in a few cases, their condition actually improved, for unidentified reasons. Signs of MCI include forgetfulness, depression, impulsiveness, apathy, anxiety, aggression and irritability, and others.
- Vascular Dementia: Because vascular dementia is a result of a blockage in the flow of blood to the brain, the kind of blockage will influence the progression of the disease. If small blood vessels are blocked, for instance, the decline is typically gradual. Major blood vessel blockage can cause a sudden onset of symptoms, followed by intense periods of change thereafter.
- Lewy Body Dementia: Progression of Lewy body dementia might be gradual, but might also consist of widely varying levels of attention and alertness during the early stages. One day could find the senior lucid, while the following day – and sometimes even several hours later – could bring delusions, confusion, and memory loss. In the later stages of the disease, restlessness, agitation, aggression, tremors, and stiffness become more common.
- Frontotemporal Dementia: Unlike other types of dementia, short-term memory is typically not impacted in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. Instead, early symptoms include behavioral changes, such as distraction, apathy, rudeness, and disregard for social norms. As the disease advances, problems with language become apparent as well, along with memory loss, vision problems, as well as other typical symptoms seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’ve been asking yourself, “What can I expect as dementia progresses?” contact the dementia care team at Hired Hands Homecare. We can provide you with more informative resources to better understand and care for someone you love with dementia. We’re also always here to help with creative, compassionate care to make life better for a family member with dementia, and also to help family members achieve an improved life balance. Call us at (866) 940-4343 to learn more.