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What is Dementia? A Simple Explanation

While dementia affects many aging people, it is not a normal part of aging. It is a disease.

Many people are forgetful, but don’t have dementia. Dementia goes beyond simple forgetfulness, affecting thought process and the ability to organize information, in addition to memory.

There are many different types of dementia, but the most common is Alzheimer’s disease. It is progressive, starting later in life, and getting worse throughout the rest of the person’s life.

Dementia is commonly conceived of as progressing in three stages:

  • mild (or “early”)
  • moderate (or “middle”)
  • severe (or “late”).

Another scale exists which is slightly more comprehensive in its description of the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Stage 1 (no cognitive decline)
  • Stage 2 (very mild cognitive decline)
  • Stage 3 (mild cognitive decline)
  • Stage 4 (moderate cognitive decline)
  • Stage 5 (moderately severe cognitive decline)
  • Stage 6 (severe cognitive decline)
  • Stage 7 (very severe cognitive decline)

In this scale, people in stages 1-3 do not typically exhibit enough symptoms for a diagnosis. By the time a diagnosis has been made, your loved one is typically in stage 4 or beyond. Stage 4 is considered “early dementia,” stages 5-6 are considered “middle dementia,” and stage 7 is considered “late dementia.”

You can read more about this seven-stage scale on this page.