Dealing with a Cancer Diagnosis

When Do You Need Dementia Care?

by For Content

Although everyone goes through temporary bouts of forgetfulness, the risk of dementia can dramatically increase as you age, particularly for those who already have a family history of dementia. How can you know whether it's time to enlist outside help for your loved one in the form of dementia care? Learn more about the seven stages of dementia and how to know whether your loved one may require dementia care.

What Are the Seven Stages of Dementia?

These stages include: 

  1. Normal behavior
  2. Intermittent forgetfulness
  3. Mild, consistent mental decline
  4. Moderate mental decline 
  5. More severe decline
  6. Severe decline
  7. Very severe decline

Not everyone will get through all seven stages or require round-the-clock dementia care. For example, someone who doesn't begin exhibiting any symptoms until they're well into their 80s may pass away from an unrelated cause while suffering only from intermittent forgetfulness. The first few stages of dementia can last a decade or longer, and dementia generally doesn't begin to progress quickly until after symptoms have become apparent to the person's loved ones (around stages three or four).

When Is Dementia Care Needed?

Generally, those suffering from dementia won't need specialized dementia care until they're in the fourth stage. During the moderately severe decline, those with dementia may not yet have trouble attending to their personal needs like dressing, eating, or using the restroom. At these stages, care can often be provided by a family member or spouse.

The later stages of dementia, starting at stage five, can lead to some major changes in personality. A previously even-keeled person may be prone to fits of anger or even violence, and this dramatic change can be emotionally painful for loved ones who have been watching the memory loss progress. Hiring in-home dementia care for a relative experiencing moderate to severe decline can provide loved ones with some relief while allowing the person with dementia to remain in familiar surroundings. Round-the-clock care is especially helpful for those whose dementia has led to a tendency to wander away from home.

Very severe mental decline will generally require round-the-clock care in a nursing facility or a specialized dementia care facility. Although many people suffering from dementia may pass away before ever reaching the sixth or seventh stages of dementia, the symptoms of these stages—including loss of speech and loss of control over bodily functions, including swallowing—generally require the care of someone with some medical training, not a family member.