May 17, 2021

family caregiver hugging senior man

Understand the progression of dementia to provide the best care for seniors.

One of the first questions in many people’s minds when a member of the family is diagnosed with dementia is what the progression of dementia will be in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. We understand that the hallmark of dementia is the progressive decline in cognitive abilities and the skills necessary to manage day-to-day life. However, each person advances through these changes differently. There are a number of factors that will affect the rate of decline, including:

  • Prescribed medicines your loved one is taking
  • General health and physical makeup
  • The network of support available
  • The individual’s general emotional wellbeing and resilience

There are other determinants to take into account as well based on the specific type of dementia diagnosed. As an example:

  • MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment): Mild cognitive impairment affects up to 20 percent of seniors. More than the standard minor cognitive decline experienced in aging, MCI involves problems with language, thinking, judgment, and memory that are obvious to the senior individually and often to others as well. Medical researchers found that about 38% of seniors with MCI later developed dementia. The other 62% never progressed further than MCI – and in some instances, their condition even improved, for unidentified reasons. Indications of MCI include forgetfulness, impulsiveness, depression, anxiety, apathy, irritability and aggression, and others.
  • Vascular Dementia: Because vascular dementia is brought on by a blockage in the flow of blood to the brain, the type of blockage will affect the progression of the dementia. For example, if small blood vessels are blocked, 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 may be gradual, but might also include widely varying levels of alertness and attention during the early stages. One day might find the individual lucid, while the next day – or even several hours later – could bring confusion, hallucinations, and memory loss. In the late stages of the disease, agitation, restlessness, aggression, tremors, and stiffness are more common.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: Unlike other forms of dementia, short-term memory is normally 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 progresses, difficulties with language become apparent as well, in addition to memory loss, vision problems, and other regular symptoms observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Reach out to the dementia care team at Continuum, the leaders in at-home care in St. Charles and the surrounding communities, for more informative resources to help you better understand and care for someone you love with dementia. We’re also always here to help with compassionate, creative care to help make life more rewarding for a loved one with dementia, and also to help family members achieve an improved life balance. For more information, contact us at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 today!