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Timeline and the Stages of Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting more than 6 million adults. This percentage is projected to rise to nearly 13 million in the next 20 years. 

While this progressive neurodegenerative disease is common amongst seniors 65 years and older, the stages, risk factors, and care options may not be. 

If your senior loved one appears to have memory loss or changes in their behavior, it could be due to the natural aging process or a form of dementia

The best way to maintain your senior loved one’s health is to ensure they see their physician for testing, or be recommended to a neuro specialist. 

The earlier a diagnosis can be made, the better chance a senior will benefit from drug and non-drug treatments and receive medical attention.

Learn what the seven Alzheimer stages are, the level of care needed during each stage, how your senior loved one will be diagnosed, and what causes the disease to progress.

Alzheimer’s stages: How the disease progresses

The cognitive decline that occurs with Alzheimer’s disease will affect memory, understanding, planning, reasoning, personality, and judgment. 

Alzheimer’s disease varies widely. Seniors may go through each stage differently, as dementia will develop gradually for some and more quickly for others. 

Maintaining health can slow down the progression of the disease but not cure it. 

7 stages of Alzheimer’s disease 

The typical progression of dementia’s seven stages may be broken down into three categories: 

  1. Early to mild pre-dementia stages (1-3)
  2. Moderate to severe dementia stages (4-7)
  3. Very severe which begins during stage 5 

It can be easier to break these categories down into stages of Alzheimer’s disease to determine what care and treatment a senior needs. At Kensington Place, their level of care is also taken into account through our two dedicated neighborhoods – Connections for early to mid stage, and Haven for mid to late stages.

1. No Impairment

In the early stage, seniors will not show signs of dementia, a cognitive decline, or memory loss. 

While symptoms cannot be seen, changes will occur in the brain. Abnormal proteins are beginning to build up in and around brain cells.

2. Very Mild Cognitive Impairment

A senior may have subjective cognitive decline, meaning minimal forgetfulness and memory loss. 

Since forgetfulness and aha moments are typical in older adults, it is unlikely a diagnosis can be made this early on. 

Your senior will still be independent, and there will not be much difference in their memory, thinking, or behavior.

3. Mild Cognitive Decline

At this point, family members, friends, and coworkers may begin to notice changes in a senior. 

A senior will display more symptoms than minor memory lapses, such as confusion, difficulties concentrating, slower thinking, trouble organizing thoughts, and slower work performance. 

Symptoms may not worsen for several years, leaving your senior relatively independent and in need of minimal support or assistance. 

4. Moderate Cognitive Decline

As your loved one reaches this middle stage, their symptoms will worsen, and a physician can easily diagnose them with Alzheimer’s disease. 

New symptoms that make the disease more obvious will appear, such as forgetting holidays, birthdays, and recent events, difficulty managing finances, difficulty performing complex tasks, and trouble expressing thoughts and feelings. 

During this stage, safety will become a concern, meaning caregivers will need to check in on their loved ones more often or consider hiring a caregiver or transitioning them to an assisted living or memory care community.

5. Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline 

As your senior loved one enters the most severe stages of their disease, they will have high care needs and need professional support.

Dressing, bathing, cleaning, cooking, and other daily tasks will become too challenging for a senior to do alone. 

Seniors will often forget where they are, what day it is, and prominent information such as their phone numbers, addresses, and birthdays. 

If your senior loved one appears to have forgotten who you are, they may be experiencing timeline confusion, a term trademarked by Rachael Wonderlin, a dementia care expert and consultant. 

Timeline confusion expresses that while your loved one cannot recall their relationship to you and the reality of who you are now, such as your current age, location, or career, they can recall a younger slightly different version of you, from a different place in time.

6. Severe Cognitive Decline

Leaving your loved one alone during this late stage is dangerous, as seniors are prone to wandering and getting themselves lost. 

For those who were able to complete daily tasks with moderate assistance, they will likely need constant support during bathing and using the bathroom now.

Significant personality changes will be seen, such as anxiety, delusions, hallucinations, agitation, and aggression. It can be worrisome for family members and friends. 

A memory care community will offer your senior the most benefits now. They will receive around-the-clock care, opportunities to engage in comforting activities, a specialized diet, and a safe place to live. 

7. Very Severe Cognitive Decline 

The final stage of Alzheimer’s is much too difficult for caregivers to manage alone. 

If you opted out of transitioning your loved one to a memory care community before, they will need one now to keep them safe and comfortable. 

Preserving your loved ones’ dignity and quality of life will be the goal of healthcare professionals, as they offer comfort, pain management, and medical and spiritual support.

Your loved one may struggle to speak, eat, and get out of bed during this final stage that lasts 2-3 years.

What causes Alzheimer’s disease to progress so quickly?

The progression of Alzheimer’s is typically slow, but in some cases, seniors may decline more quickly than others. 

When dementia progresses quickly it may be due to several factors such as: 

  • Age
  • Additional neurological conditions
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Vitamin deficiencies 
  • High blood pressure
  • Infections 
  • Delirium 
  • Other medical conditions

There is no way to determine how slowly or quickly a senior’s disease will progress. Though, an early diagnosis, medical treatment, and care may help seniors preserve their health longer.


While it is unlikely for your senior loved one to be diagnosed with dementia during the preclinical stages, during the early stages a trained physician and neurologist will notice even gradual cognitive changes. 

A doctor will review a senior’s medical history, medications, and symptoms, and perform a physical evaluation to rule out other conditions first. 

From there, a senior will need a series of laboratory tests and brain imaging tests, before officially receiving an accurate diagnosis. 

Finding the best memory care team and community

Kensington Place Redwood City has made it Our Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own. 

Our compassionate and highly trained team shows our love by offering high acuity care, around-the-clock support, on-site rehabilitation, fine dining, and life-enrichment activities. 

At Kensington Place Redwood City, no need is too big. We cater our care plans to each individual. We are prepared for the varying stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s, to bring comfort and joy to all our residents who are a part of our family.

Transitioning your loved one to an assisted living or memory care community may be difficult if you have been their sole caregiver. However, creating a plan early on can help ease some of your worries and concerns. 

When you are ready, Kensington Place is ready to support you, through our caring team and multitude of resources available.

Contact us to learn more about our cozy homes, secure grounds, support groups, and events.