While you may have noticed some memory lapses or behavior changes, when someone you love is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it can be quite a shock. Suddenly you may have to care for a parent — the person you’ve always looked to for support and advice. But it’s important to know you’re not alone. In 2022, it was estimated by the Alzheimer’s Association that over 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for someone with a form of dementia. It’s also vital to understand that although dementia is a life-limiting condition, your loved one can still live a fulfilling life for many years.

At Artis Senior Living, we believe the more you learn about dementia, the better you’ll be able to support your loved one and understand the importance of dementia care. After an initial diagnosis, one of the biggest questions you may have is, “What is the life expectancy of someone with dementia?” While this seems like a fairly simple question, arriving at an answer is more complex because there several factors that go into it, including:

The cognitive decline from dementia doesn’t happen all at once. Instead, it tends to progress through seven different stages that can sometimes last years. Knowing and understanding these stages may be able to help you react quicker and know when to seek dementia care for your loved one.

Stage 1: No Cognitive Decline
The first stage of dementia is very mild and your loved one will most likely still be functioning normally. During this stage, your family member may not display any signs of significant memory problems or cognitive decline. Stage 1 is hard to diagnose and is sometimes referred to as the “pre-dementia” stage.

Stage 2: Age-Associated Memory Impairment
In Stage 2 of dementia, your loved one will experience occasional bouts of memory loss. You might notice that they sometimes forget where they placed something or can’t remember the name of a friend or family member. At this early stage, it may be hard to tell whether your loved one is dealing with the normal forgetfulness we all occasionally experience or if they’re showing early signs of dementia. Encouraging them to be evaluated by their doctor can help catch dementia early. Like Stage 1, Stage 2 is difficult to diagnose or determine how long it lasts.

Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Impairment
It’s in Stage 3 that your family member will begin to experience very noticeable cognitive decline. Some signs of Stage 3 include getting lost easily, having difficulty retaining information, and having difficulty concentrating. If your loved one begins to experience any of these symptoms, they might also show signs of mild anxiety. If you think they’ve reached this stage, it could be helpful to you both to seek a clinical interview with their doctor. This stage of dementia can last for 2-7 years.

Stage 4: Mild Dementia
In Stage 4, it’s likely that your loved one will become socially withdrawn and they may begin to show changes in their personality. Some behavioral changes you might notice include difficulty remembering personal information, a decreased ability to handle finances, difficulty recognizing faces, and decreased knowledge of current events. During this stage, you might notice your loved one attempting to hide their symptoms by avoiding challenging situations. Stage 4 can last approximately 2 years.

Stage 5: Moderate Dementia
During Stage 5, your family member will likely begin to need help with the activities of daily living (ADLs). One of the most apparent signs in Stage 5 is your loved one’s inability to remember important details of their life. You might notice that your family member becomes easily disoriented, has trouble making decisions, and frequently forgets personal information. This stage of dementia can last approximately 1.5 years.

Stage 6: Moderately Severe Dementia
An apparent sign that your loved one has reached Stage 6 of dementia is when they begin to forget the names of their children or other close family members. In this stage, your loved one may become unaware of their surroundings and unable to recall recent events. Your loved one might also begin to display delusional and obsessive behavior, and loss of willpower. Stage 6 is estimated to last 2.5 years.

Stage 7: Severe Dementia
In this final stage of dementia, your loved one will experience loss of motor skills and might become unable to speak. During this stage, your family member will most likely need help with things like walking, eating, and using the bathroom. Stage 7 of dementia can last 1.5 to 2.5 years.

After an initial diagnosis of dementia, care typically falls to family and friends. While you care for your loved one, it’s also important to take care of yourself. As your partner in dementia caregiver support, Artis Senior Living is here to provide education and help you navigate your loved one’s care options.