Q & A on Stage 5 Dementia

by juliet

stage 5 dementiaYou may have heard the term Stage 5 dementia and if you’re looking for your car keys (again) or can’t remember why it is you just walked into the kitchen (again), you may joke and secretly worry that you’re suffering from dementia. Don’t worry, distraction, disorganization and even forgetfulness do not represent dementia. There is much more to it than typical absent-mindedness as a result of aging or too much going on. Chances are high, though, that you will be dealing with dementia at some point in your life. An aging parent, a spouse or some other loved one may show signs of cognitive decline.  But before assuming they suffer from dementia, learn more. Here’s a quick Q & A explaining the various stages of dementia, with a focus on stage 5 dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a decline in memory and thinking skills significant enough to interfere with a person’s ability to do live a normal life or get through their day to day activities. Alzheimer’s disease causes between 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Vascular dementia is another common type, caused by strokes. Other conditions such as Lewy Body or thyroid disease can cause dementia as well.

What do the stages of dementia mean and where do they come from?

Health care providers use a scale to evaluate the stage and progression of dementia. The exact number of stages may differ depending which scale is used, but generally, the higher the stage, the more severe the cognitive decline. So, stage one, for example would be no symptoms of dementia, while stage 3 would be moderate dementia symptoms and so on.

One of the most common measures of dementia is the Reisberg or Global Deterioration Scale (GDS). It breaks down the progression of dementia into seven stages. Experts originally developed the GDS for patients with Alzheimer’s disease., but it can be used for staging non-Alzheimer’s disease dementia as well. The same goes for another commonly used measure, the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale or CDR. Each stage of these rating scales assesses the severity of symptoms in different categories, including memory, orientation, judgement and problem solving, community affairs involvement, home life, hobbies and personal care.

So, what is stage 5 dementia?

What stage of dementia a person has can vary depending on what scale is used to evaluate the situation. Using the GDS, stage 5 dementia represents the higher end of moderate dementia symptoms. A person at this stage is experiencing mental confusion and starting to need help with their day to day routines such as taking a shower, preparing a meal or getting dressed. At stage 5 on the CDR, the person can probably no longer live alone.

On the CDR scale, stage 5 is considered late stage, severe dementia. People at this stage, particularly those stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, will have severe memory loss along with reasoning difficulties. They will no longer be able to speak or communicate coherently and may exhibit some really strange behavior. Stage 5 patients require round the clock care. They cannot eat, dress, or use the bathroom without help. Physically, they may no longer be able to walk or even hold their head up without support. Muscles become rigid and eventually their ability swallow or control bodily functions, fails. Comparatively, this would be stage 7 on the GDS scale.

Is there any treatment for dementia?

There are no long-term treatments for dementia, but there are steps to take to improve the situation in the short run. The medications prescribed today can temporarily improve symptoms.  As of yet– there is nothing available that will slow the progression or provide a cure. At Paradise Living Centers we enlist memory care experts to work with our residents and lead them in activities that engage them and help slow down cognitive decline.

What can we do for people with late stage dementia?

Although research has yet to yield something new on the medicinal front, that doesn’t mean the care of people with severe dementia should solely be focused on their physical needs. Care should provide comfort, preserve dignity and include activities that stimulate the senses. There are no activities that will suddenly jar loose a bunch of memories or repair the damage. In fact, such attempts can be really upsetting to someone with late-stage dementia. Experts recommend that instead, you focus on providing small tasks that are repetitive and engage each of the senses: site, touch, smell, hearing and taste. Always consult with the clinical staff before running any activities, and arm yourself with realistic expectations.

If you have any questions about how to best care for someone diagnosed with dementia or about our assisted living community, please contact Paradise Living Centers at (480) 878-4112.