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How Fast Can Dementia Come On

What Is Younger Onset Dementia

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Younger onset dementia is used to describe any form of dementia that develops in people under the age of 65. Dementia has been diagnosed in people in their 50s, 40s and even in their 30s. It is sometimes called early onset dementia.

Younger onset dementia is similar to other types of dementia in many ways. The same problems generally occur, but the disease can have a different impact on a younger person because they are more likely to be employed full time, raising a family or financially responsible for a family.

How Important Are The Stages Of Dementia

The stages of dementia are just a guide and there is nothing significant about the number three. Equally, dementia doesnt follow an exact or certain set of steps that happen in the same way for every person with dementia.

It can be difficult to tell when a persons dementia has progressed from one stage to another because:

  • some symptoms may appear in a different order to the stages described in this factsheet, or not at all
  • the stages may overlap the person may need help with some aspects of everyday life but manage other tasks and activities on their own
  • some symptoms, particularly those linked to behaviours, may develop at one stage and then reduce or even disappear later on. Other symptoms, such as memory loss and problems with language and thinking, tend to stay and get worse with time.

It is natural to ask which stage a person is at or what might happen next. But it is more important to focus on the person in the present moment. This includes their needs and how they can live well, and how to help them with this.

For more support on living well with dementia see The dementia guide: living well after diagnosis or Caring for a person with dementia: a practical guide .

And for more information about treatment and support for the different types of dementia go to the following pages:

What Do We Mean By Stages Of Dementia

There are many different types of dementia and all of them are progressive. This means symptoms may be relatively mild at first but they get worse with time, usually over several years. These include problems with memory, thinking, problem-solving or language, and often changes in emotions, perception or behaviour.

As dementia progresses, a person will need more help and, at some point, will need a lot of support with daily living. However, dementia is different for everyone, so it will vary how soon this happens and the type of support needed.

It can be helpful to think of there being three stages of dementia:

These are sometimes called mild, moderate and severe, because this describes how much the symptoms affect a person.

These stages can be used to understand how dementia is likely to change over time, and to help people prepare for the future. The stages also act as a guide to when certain treatments, such as medicines for Alzheimers disease, are likely to work best.

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Using The Gds To Measure Dementia Progression

As the disease progresses, different signs and symptoms will become increasingly obvious. While there are several scales to measure the progression of dementia, the most common scale is the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia . The scale is also known as the Reisberg Scale. According to the GDS, there are seven different stages of Alzheimers disease correlating with four distinct categories: no Alzheimers, mild Alzheimers , moderate Alzheimers , and severe Alzheimers .

Duration Of Stages: How Long Do The Stage Of Alzheimers / Dementia Last

The Seven Stages Of Dementia: Understanding The FAST Scale  Avalon ...

No two people with dementia experience the disease exactly the same way, and the rate of progression will vary by person and type of dementia. In addition, it is not uncommon for individuals to have mixed dementia, meaning they have more than one type. That said, there is a natural course of the disease, and over time the capabilities of all persons with dementia will worsen. Eventually, the ability to function goes away. Keep in mind that changes in the brain from dementia begin years before diagnosis, when there are no outward symptoms. This makes it difficult to know how much time a person has left, though there are ways to come close to knowing life expectancy.

Life Expectancy by Dementia Type
Dementia Type
2 to 8 years following pronounced symptoms

Mild DementiaIn this early stage of dementia, an individual can function rather independently, and often is still able to drive and maintain a social life. Symptoms may be attributed to the normal process of aging. There might be slight lapses in memory, such as misplacing eyeglasses or having difficulty finding the right word. Other difficulties may include issues with planning, organizing, concentrating on tasks, or accomplishing tasks at work. This early stage of dementia, on average, lasts between 2 and 4 years.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Younger Onset Dementia

The symptoms of dementia are similar no matter what age they start. They include:

  • memory loss that interferes with daily life
  • confusion
  • withdrawing from friends and family
  • losing the ability to think clearly or make judgements
  • language problems
  • changes to behaviour

Many conditions can produce symptoms that are similar to dementia, such as vitamin and hormone deficiencies, depression, medication, infections and brain tumours.

What Causes Parkinsons Disease Dementia

A chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine helps control and coordinate muscle movement. Over time, Parkinsons disease destroys the nerve cells that make dopamine.

Without this chemical messenger, the nerve cells cant properly relay instructions to the body. This causes a loss of muscle function and coordination. Researchers dont know why these brain cells disappear.

Parkinsons disease also causes dramatic changes in a part of your brain that controls movement.

Those with Parkinsons disease often experience motor symptoms as a preliminary sign of the condition. Tremors are one of the most common first symptoms of Parkinsons disease.

As the disease progresses and spreads in your brain, it can affect the parts of your brain responsible for mental functions, memory, and judgment.

Over time, your brain may not be able to use these areas as efficiently as it once did. As a result, you may begin experiencing symptoms of Parkinsons disease dementia.

You have an increased risk of developing Parkinsons disease dementia if:

  • youre a person with a penis
  • youre older

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What Other Things Help

In addition to medications, there are various ways to help a person with vascular dementia. Research has shown that physical exercise and maintaining a healthy weight help to enhance brain health and reduce the risk of heart problems, stroke and other diseases that affect blood vessels. A balanced diet, enough sleep and limited alcohol intake are other important ways to promote good brain health and reduce the risk for heart disease. Other illnesses that affect the brain, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, should also be treated if present.

Symptoms In The Later Stages Of Dementia


As dementia progresses, memory loss and difficulties with communication often become severe. In the later stages, the person is likely to neglect their own health, and require constant care and attention.

The most common symptoms of advanced dementia include:

  • memory problems people may not recognise close family and friends, or remember where they live or where they are
  • communication problems some people may eventually lose the ability to speak altogether. Using non-verbal means of communication, such as facial expressions, touch and gestures, can help
  • mobility problems many people become less able to move about unaided. Some may eventually become unable to walk and require a wheelchair or be confined to bed
  • behavioural problems a significant number of people will develop what are known as “behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia”. These may include increased agitation, depressive symptoms, anxiety, wandering, aggression, or sometimes hallucinations
  • bladder incontinence is common in the later stages of dementia, and some people will also experience bowel incontinence
  • appetite and weight loss problems are both common in advanced dementia. Many people have trouble eating or swallowing, and this can lead to choking, chest infections and other problems. Alzheimer’s Society has a useful factsheet on eating and drinking

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Stage : Severe Mental Decline/moderately Severe Dementiaquality Of Life: Severe Impact

Your loved one will not remember much or any of the past and may not recognize you and other family and friends. He or she may have trouble making healthcare decisions. You may need 24-hour care in the home for day-to-day activities. You may see your loved one:

  • Show strong personality changes and mood swings.
  • Have delusions, such as thinking it is time to go to work when there is no job.
  • Not be able to use the toilet or get dressed without help.
  • Getting lost or wandering off.
  • Have problems sleeping at night but sleep during the day.
  • Lack of awareness of events and experiences.
  • Changes in eating habits.

Help the health care team follow your loved ones care preferences. You can:

  • Help with dressing, toileting, and other daily activities.
  • Continue to try to connect with your loved one. Sometimes connecting in ways other than talking can help, such as listening to music or reading a story.
  • Respond with patience.

Stage : Moderately Severe Dementia

When the patient begins to forget the names of their children, spouse, or primary caregivers, they are most likely entering stage 6 of dementia and will need full time care. In the sixth stage, patients are generally unaware of their surroundings, cannot recall recent events, and have skewed memories of their personal past. Caregivers and loved ones should watch for:

  • Delusional behavior

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How Fast Does Alzheimers Progress Through The Different Stages Of The Disease

The symptoms of Alzheimers can be split into three separate stages: stage I, stage II, and stage III. Each stage of the disease can easily last several years, or even longer if secondary health problems do not arise, so there is often no way of being sure how long a loved one will last once a firm diagnosis of Alzheimers has been made.

Stage 1

Because the early symptoms of Alzheimers stage I are often very vague, it can be very easy to mistake the signs of dementia as signs of normal aging. Memory loss and confusion are typical with stage I symptoms, but although you might assume that this is a normal part of growing older, it isnt. Stage I is considered to be the mild stage of the disease as the symptoms are not generally bad enough to lead to a total loss of independence. On average, most people will show stage I symptoms of Alzheimers for between two and four years.

Stage 2

Stage II of the disease tends to be the longest stage of the disease and can last up to ten years. During this stage, the brain will sustain a lot of damage and the person will begin to show significant decline in all aspects of cognitive function, including language and reasoning skills. Complex tasks will become impossible and as the symptoms of the disease worsen, the person will eventually be unable to look after themselves properly.

Stage 3

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Lewy Body Dementia Vs Parkinsons Disease Dementia

How Quickly Can Dementia Progress?

Diagnoses of Lewy body dementia include dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinsons disease dementia. Symptoms in both of these diagnoses can be similar.

Lewy body dementia is a progressive dementia caused by abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain. Lewy bodies are also seen in Parkinsons disease.

The overlap in symptoms between Lewy body dementia and Parkinsons disease dementia include movement symptoms, rigid muscles, and problems with thinking and reasoning.

This seems to indicate that they could be linked to the same abnormalities, though more research is needed to confirm that.

The later stages of Parkinsons disease have more severe symptoms that may require help moving around, around-the-clock care, or a wheelchair. Quality of life can decline rapidly.

Risks of infection, incontinence, pneumonia, falls, insomnia, and choking increase.

Hospice care, memory care, home health aides, social workers, and support counselors can be a help in later stages.

Parkinsons disease itself isnt fatal, but complications can be.

Research has shown a median survival rate of about

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How Quickly Does Dementia Progress

The speed at which dementia progresses varies a lot from person to person because of factors such as:

  • the type of dementia for example, Alzheimers disease tends to progress more slowly than the other types
  • a persons age for example, Alzheimers disease generally progresses more slowly in older people than in younger people
  • other long-term health problems dementia tends to progress more quickly if the person is living with other conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, particularly if these are not well-managed
  • delirium a medical condition that starts suddenly .

There is no way to be sure how quickly a persons dementia will progress. Some people with dementia will need support very soon after their diagnosis. In contrast, others will stay independent for several years.

Why Is Dementia Progressive

Dementia is not a single condition. It is caused by different physical diseases of the brain, for example Alzheimers disease, vascular dementia, DLB and FTD.

In the early stage of all types of dementia only a small part of the brain is damaged. In this stage, a person has fewer symptoms as only the abilities that depend on the damaged part of the brain are affected. These early symptoms are usually relatively minor. This is why mild dementia is used as an alternative term for the early stage.

Each type of dementia affects a different area of the brain in the early stages. This is why symptoms vary between the different types. For example, memory loss is common in early-stage Alzheimers but is very uncommon in early-stage FTD.

As dementia progresses into the middle and later stages, the symptoms of the different dementia types tend to become more similar. This is because more of the brain is affected as dementia progresses.

Over time, the disease causing the dementia spreads to other parts of the brain. This leads to more symptoms because more of the brain is unable to work properly. At the same time, already-damaged areas of the brain become even more affected, causing symptoms the person already has to get worse.

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How Many Stages Of Dementia Are There

There are several different types of Dementia, with Alzheimers disease being the most common. Though when it comes to the different stages of Dementia, we can typically categorise the trajectory of the disease as mild, moderate or severe.

Although this three stage model is useful for providing an overview of early, middle and final stages of Dementia, most people prefer a seven stage model that breaks cognitive decline down into seven specific categories. The progression of Dementia will be different for everyone, but knowing where a loved one falls on this scale can help to identify signs and symptoms, whilst also determining the most appropriate care needs. So, what are the 7 stages of Dementia?

Sudden Worsening Of Dementia Symptoms

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Whether youve been diagnosed with dementia yourself or are caring for someone who has, a sudden change in symptoms, such acute confusion, memory loss, or delirium can be really worrying. In this guide we talk about some of the lesser known reasons why symptoms can get worse in a short space of time, and what to do about it.

According to Alzheimers Research UK, one in every two people will know someone affected by dementia, and you dont have to personally receive a diagnosis for it to have a big impact on your daily life. Seeing a loved one go through cognitive decline is never easy, especially if they seem to be progressing fairly quickly through the different stages of dementia.

Its important to remember that while there are three recognised stages of dementia, symptoms will vary from person to person, which can sometimes give the impression that the condition is progressing faster than it actually is. For example, some common symptoms may occur earlier than expected, while others will fail to occur at all. Some behaviours, such as emotional outbursts, or feeling depressed can come and go too.

And, while dementia is progressive, a sudden or unexpected change in behaviour, mood or memory wont always mean that its the condition itself getting worse. There are a number of other health conditions that can make symptoms worse, which well cover in this guide too.

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Typically Chronic Degenerative Dementias

Alzheimer’s disease is rarely rapid, but unusual presentations can be mistaken for CJD. Several cases of AD have been reported in conjunction with angiopathy presenting as adult onset RPD. Other non-prion neurodegenerative diseases that can also present, albeit rarely, in a more fulminant fashion, include DLB, FTD years, FTD patients 11 years and PSP/CBD patients 11.8 years , and PSP alone 5.6 years , from first symptom. More rapid onset and/or progression can occur. . In a large German study, out of 413 autopsied suspected cases of CJD 7% had AD and 3% had DLB. Myoclonus and extrapyramidal signs occurred in more than 70% of the DLB and more than 50% of the AD patients. Similarly, in a French pathologic study of 465 suspected CJD patients, the two most frequent non-CJD pathologic diagnoses were AD and DLB.

Neurofilament inclusion body disease is a recently described pathologic condition that can clinically present as FTD or CBD. The four index cases were all more rapid than typical degenerative dementias, with duration of only two to four years. Brain MRI and pathology showed frontal, temporal and caudate atrophy. A distinguishing feature of NIBD is the presence of intracytopasmic neuronal inclusions that stain strongly with antibodies to neurofilament proteins and ubiquitin, but not tau or α-synuclein. Once case of NIBD has also presented as an early onset rapidly progressive FTD with features of primary lateral sclerosis.


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