How do you determine which stage of dementia a person is in when their symptoms overlap stages?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 20, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

It's confusing to read about the different stages of dementia. Most of the time it appears a few symthoms from all stages are present. How do you determine which stage a person is in when this happens? Thanks...Pray

Expert Answers

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

Dementia symptoms are as individual as each person who has the disease. For instance, a person with dementia usually can walk until they reach the moderate stage of the disease and then I meet someone who can still walk without assistance and they cannot speak more than a few words and need extensive assistance with eating.

I copied the following from the internet. Just "Google" Dementia FAST You can read more detailed descriptions of each stage on the internet.

I'm not sure how important knowing the stage a person is in other than to be aware of what might occur if the disease follows a predictable course. For instance by Stage 7 of the FAST a person will likely not want to eat and drink so decisions regarding tube feeding should be made before this happens and the family makes a decision when they are in a crisis mode. The burdens of tube feeding far outweigh it's benefits as do many medical interventions at this point in the disease process so it is best to be aware of the decisions that must be made in each stage. And yes, I have seen people stop eating then in a few days start again!

I hope this is helpful....blessings to you for caring...

At the New York University Medical Center's Aging and Dementia Research Center, Barry Reisberg, MD and colleagues have developed the Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) scale, which allows professionals and caregivers to chart the decline of people with Alzheimer's disease. The FAST scale has 16 stages and sub-stages:

FAST Scale Stage Characteristics

1... normal adult No functional decline.

2... normal older adult Personal awareness of some functional decline.

3... early Alzheimer's disease Noticeable deficits in demanding job situations.

4... mild Alzheimer's Requires assistance in complicated tasks such as handling finances, planning parties, etc.

5... moderate Alzheimer's Requires assistance in choosing proper attire.

6... moderately severe Alzheimer's Requires assistance dressing, bathing, and toileting. Experiences urinary and fecal incontinence.

7... severe Alzheimer's Speech ability declines to about a half-dozen intelligible words. Progressive loss of abilities to walk, sit up, smile, and hold head up.