How Quickly Can Dementia Progress?

One of the primary questions in most people’s minds when a family member is diagnosed with dementia is, “How quickly can dementia progress in the coming months and years?” We know that the unmistakable sign of dementia is the increasing decline in cognitive abilities and also the skills necessary to manage day-to-day life. Yet, each individual advances through these changes in a different way. There are a variety of factors that will affect the rate of decline, such as:

  • Prescribed medicines a senior loved one is taking
  • General health and physical makeup
  • The circle of support available
  • The person’s general emotional wellbeing and resilience

There are also other determinants to take into account based on the specific type of dementia diagnosed. For instance:

  • MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment): Mild cognitive impairment impacts up to 20% of seniors. More than the typical minor cognitive decline experienced in aging, MCI involves problems with language, thinking, judgment, and memory which are apparent 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 a few instances, their condition even improved, for unknown reasons. Signs of MCI include forgetfulness, depression, impulsiveness, anxiety, apathy, aggression and irritability, and others.
  • Vascular Dementia: Because vascular dementia is caused by a blockage in blood circulation to the brain, the kind of blockage will affect the progression of the disease. For example, if small blood vessels are blocked, the decline will typically occur gradually. Major blood vessel blockage may cause a rapid onset of symptoms, accompanied by intense periods of change thereafter.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Progression of Lewy body dementia might be gradual, but may also consist of widely varying levels of alertness and attention in the early stages. One day may find the senior lucid, while the following day – or even several hours later – could bring confusion, hallucinations, and memory loss. In the later stages of the disease, agitation, restlessness, aggression, tremors, and stiffness are more prevalent.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: Unlike other forms of dementia, short-term memory is frequently not impacted during the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. Instead, early symptoms include behavioral changes, such as distraction, rudeness, apathy, and disregard for social norms. As the disease progresses, problems with language become apparent as well, in addition to memory loss, vision problems, and other typical symptoms observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Reach out to the dementia care team at Seniorcorp for more informative resources that will help you better understand and care for someone you love with dementia. We’re also always available to help with creative, compassionate care in order to make life more fulfilling for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, and to help family members achieve an improved life balance. For more information about our home care services in Norfolk and surrounding areas, contact us at 757-640-0557 today! To learn about all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.