One of the primary questions in most people’s minds when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia is how dementia progresses, and what to expect in the weeks, months, and years to come. We understand that the unmistakable sign of dementia is the increasing decline in cognitive abilities as well as the skills required to take care of daily life. However, each person progresses through these changes in a different way. There are a variety of factors that may impact how dementia progresses, such as:
- Prescribed medicines a senior is taking
- General health and physical makeup
- The circle of support established
- The person’s general emotional wellbeing and resilience
There are other determinants to factor in based on the type of dementia diagnosed. As an example:
- MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment): Mild cognitive impairment impacts up to 20% of seniors. More than the normal minor cognitive decline experienced in aging, MCI involves difficulties with language, judgment, thinking, and memory which are apparent to the older adult individually and often to others as well. Researchers found that about 38% of seniors with MCI later developed dementia. The other 62% never progressed further than MCI – and in some cases, their condition actually improved, for unknown reasons. Signs of MCI include forgetfulness, impulsiveness, depression, anxiety, apathy, irritability and aggression, and others.
- Vascular Dementia: Because vascular dementia is due to a blockage in blood circulation to the brain, the type of blockage will affect the advancement of the disease. For example, if small blood vessels are blocked, the decline will typically occur gradually. Major blood vessel blockage can cause an abrupt onset of symptoms, followed by intense periods of change thereafter.
- Lewy Body Dementia: Progression of Lewy body dementia may be gradual, but may also consist of widely varying degrees of attention and alertness in the early stages. One day might find the individual lucid, while the following day – and on occasion even several hours later – could bring hallucinations, confusion, and memory loss. In the late stages of the disease, agitation, restlessness, aggression, tremors, and stiffness become more prevalent.
- Frontotemporal Dementia: Unlike other types of dementia, short-term memory is usually not impacted in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. Rather, early symptoms include behavioral changes, such as distraction, rudeness, apathy, and disregard for social norms. As the disease advances, difficulties with language become apparent as well, in addition to memory loss, vision problems, and other typical symptoms seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
Contact the dementia care team at Amy’s Helping Hands for more informative resources that will help you better understand and care for someone you love with Alzheimer's. We’re also always here to assist with compassionate, creative care in order to make life more fulfilling for a senior with dementia, and also to help family members achieve an improved life balance. Call us at 519-915-4370 to learn more about how we can help you with dementia care in Windsor and the surrounding areas.