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What to expect in the Early & Middle Stage

In the early stages, each type of dementia will manifest with its own particular signs and symptoms. This is because in different types of dementia, different parts of the brain are affected first. As the disorder progresses, the damage spreads throughout the brain. Symptoms become more pronounced and similar across different types of dementia.

This section covers early and middle stage dementia, and offers information on what to expect as well as some advice on how to deal with common symptoms. Visit our What to Expect in the Late Stage page to find out about late stage dementia. For information on dementia care and treatment, visit our How is Dementia Treated? section.

Early Stage Dementia

This is the mild stage of dementia. Signs will often be very minor, and changes will occur gradually. Symptoms can often be mistaken for stress, anxiety or the mourning that comes with bereavement. Loss of short-term memory is an early sign common to many types of dementia. Other symptoms a person in the early stage of dementia may experience, include:

  • Losing or mislaying items
  • Forgetting recent events or conversations
  • Facing difficulty grasping new ideas
  • Repeating themselves
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Demonstrating poor judgement
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Becoming confused
  • Losing track of a conversation
  • Agitation caused by confusion and a readiness to blame others for things that go wrong (like lost items)
  • Unwillingness to try different things or accept change
  • Losing interest in other people

In the early stages of dementia, a person may become anxious, depressed, or withdrawn. This may be caused by their inability to manage tasks effectively as they once did. Family or carers can do a world of good by offering comfort and reassurance. A person at this stage of dementia can still maintain their independence. Though it may seem kinder to carry out tasks for them, try not to. Instead, encourage or guide them to do things themselves. This will help them retain their independence and sense of self-worth.

Middle Stage Dementia

As dementia progresses, symptoms will become more pronounced, as will memory loss. The affected person is likely to forget names and faces, and may sometimes repeat questions. He/she will also need more help performing daily tasks and will require frequent reminders to eat, wash or use the toilet.

People with middle stage dementia can start to get anxious, angry and aggressive. It is likely that such mood changes are caused by a loss of confidence and the frustration of not knowing what is going on. Other changes may include:

  • Becoming confused about time. The person may start to get up at nights because they think it’s daytime.
  • Displaying unusual or socially inappropriate behaviour. For example, going out in night-clothes.
  • Experiencing problems with perception. This could include believing things, which aren’t true and/or having hallucinations.
  • Becoming confused about where they are. The person may forget places, go out or walk off on their own and get themselves lost.

These changes are often distressing for the affected person and his/her carers. Though it can be difficult, carers and family should try not to take aggressive behaviour personally. It is also important to remember that the affected person may still respond to affection and kindness, even when they cannot understand speech or recognise people.

Caring for a loved one with developing dementia requires specialist understanding. Particularly since the disorder manifests differently in each individual, and symptoms change over time. At Cedars Care Group homes we provide person-centred care. Our professionally trained staff offer residents and their families one-to-one support on what can often be a difficult journey. Find Out More

Some of the information in this section has been sourced from the Alzheimer’s Society website.

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