Our Parents
Senior Health
Senior Living Options
Finances & Legal
Products for Seniors
About Us
A pink banner with the OurParents logo

Dementia: Stages, Symptoms and Treatment Options for the Disease

Written by Kevin Ryan
 about the author
4 minute readLast updated March 30, 2023

Caring for an aging loved one living with dementia can be a challenging endeavor. However, understanding the dementia timeline can provide insight that allows family caregivers to prepare for the care their loved one may need. Dementia progresses in seven stages during which existing symptoms worsen, or new symptoms arise. Having an idea of what to expect throughout the progression of dementia may offer families the opportunity to take a compassionate, supportive, and knowledgeable approach to the condition.

Key Takeaways

  1. Dementia progresses in seven distinct stages. While each person will experience dementia differently, the seven stages can be categorized in levels as mild, moderate, or severe.
  2. The mild or early level of dementia can often go unnoticed with few symptoms. Many people with dementia may live with the condition for years before they experience any noticeable declines.
  3. People living with moderate and severe dementia may experience a progressive worsening of symptoms. For example, memory loss, a common symptom, can start with minor forgetfulness before progressing to the point where familiar people become unrecognizable to a person living with dementia.
  4. There is no cure for dementia, but there are treatments that address symptoms. Several medication options exist that may help slow memory loss and improve a person’s ability to think more clearly.

Understanding the levels of dementia progression

Dementia is a condition that gets worse over time. While each individual will experience symptoms and changes uniquely, dementia typically progresses through the following three phases or levels:
  • Early or mild. During the initial phase of dementia, changes in the brain have started to occur but a person may not exhibit obvious symptoms like memory loss. In the early phase, people usually continue to live independently and perform regular daily tasks. Often known as pre-clinical dementia, this phase may last over 20 years.
  • Middle or moderate. Symptoms such as memory loss and mood swings occur during the middle phase. Someone in this phase of dementia may still live at home but will likely need the help of a family caregiver or professional in-home caregiver. They may need assistance with daily activities like bathing and dressing. At this phase, families may decide a senior living community that specializes in memory care is the best care option for their loved one.
  • Late or severe. The final stage of dementia is also the most severe. In addition to memory loss, it involves changes in a person’s communication, physical abilities, and thinking skills.
The late phase of dementia is often defined by symptoms such as incontinence and a person’s inability to communicate and move without help. Often, individuals in the late phases of dementia will receive care in a memory care community or nursing home.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Dementia stages and symptoms


Dementia is usually tracked in stages that define a person’s level of cognitive decline. The seven stages of dementia include the following:
  1. No cognitive impairment
  2. Very mild cognitive decline
  3. Mild cognitive decline
  4. Moderate cognitive decline
  5. Moderately severe cognitive decline
  6. Severe cognitive decline
  7. Very severe cognitive decline


While certain dementia symptoms are similar to changes associated with aging, dementia is not considered to be a normal part of the aging process. Symptoms and the rate at which dementia progresses will be different for each individual and may include the following:
  • Forgetting simple words
  • Difficulty following a storyline
  • Repeating ideas, stories, and thoughts
  • Getting lost in a familiar area
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble completing familiar tasks
  • Finding misplaced items in strange places
  • Struggles with abstract thinking, such as calculating a tip
  • Mood changes
  • Fearfulness, irritability, or suspiciousness.
  • Asking the same question repeatedly

Talk with a Senior Care Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

Dementia Treatment

While there is no cure for dementia, there are several medications that can help to a variety of symptoms. Because of their potential side effects, these medications are considered a last resort for symptom management. These medications include the following:
  • Aricept
  • Galantamine
  • Rivastigmine
  • Tacrine
  • Memantine

Help exploring support options for a loved one living with dementia

If you have a loved living with dementia, OurParents can help you find the support they need to help them live a dignified and quality life. Our Senior Care Advisors can provide information about senior living options in your area including in-home care and memory care communities.


Meet the Author
Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan is a copywriter at OurParents. He has written about Medicaid and Medicare, and focuses on creating content for caregivers. Previously, Kevin worked as a freelance writer, a special education teacher, and a counselor for adults with developmental disabilities. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Edited byHaines Eason

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom (of which OurParents is a trademark) and the reader.  Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site.  Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.