1. There’s not a single dementia staging model.
Staging one’s level or stage of dementia can be immensely difficult due to not only the various types of dementia but also the different staging models that may exist per dementia type. For the sake of clear communication between caregivers and family, it is crucial to determine which staging model will be implemented. Which staging model is to be followed should ideally be determined by a physician. Upon dementia diagnosis, feel free to ask which staging model will be utilized and how stages will be determined going forward according to this model.
2. A dementia patient may seem to flow between stages.
One of the most confusing aspects of dementia is the day-to-day mental state of the patient. Depending on the style of dementia, several days of intense confusion may be followed by days of apparent clarity and a return to one’s “old self.” While days of clarity should be cherished, treating them as a symptom of improvement may be emotionally precarious for loved ones. These good days following bad days can be a bit of a rollercoaster, so it is important for loved ones and caregivers to “zoom out”—determining the state of a patient’s wellbeing by taking an average of a month or even several months to gauge their condition—not one day to the next.
3. There’s no set time per stage for patients.
It’s not wise to estimate just how long it will take a dementia patient to move from one stage to the next. Too many variables exist that can speed up or slow down the rate of dementia stage progression. The type of dementia, specific age, activity, socialization, and even one’s diet can impact one’s time in a particular stage of dementia. No one can put a particular date on the rate of progression of one’s dementia.
4. There’s no singular symptom used in staging.
As much as one would like a clear sign that their loved one has moved from one stage of dementia to another, that’s not necessarily how staging works. Instead, specialists look at a range of symptoms, their frequency, and many other factors to determine the stage of a patient’s dementia. While confusing for loved ones, this may actually provide a bit of hope for those who have already assumed an extremely late stage due to one or two specific symptoms. No two cases are identical, and no two timelines are the same.
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