Overview of Dementia - Dementia Caregiver Web Support
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Dementia Caregiver Web Support

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Overview of Dementia

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What is Dementia?

Most people with dementia experience behavioral changes as their condition progresses, which can become challenging and distressing for caregivers to manage. Before reading the content on this page, it may be beneficial to review the following video(s) from the Office of Rural Health (ORH).

Communicating with Someone with Dementia
Length- 15:41
Teri learns how to better communicate with Frank. (Link opens to new page)

Overview of Dementia
Length: 04:44
Nurse defines three stages of dementia. (Link opens to new page)

Dementia refers to changes in brain functions such as:

  • Memory
  • Planning
  • Reasoning
  • Communication


Common Dementia Symptoms

Although each person is different, the following symptoms are common and may be seen in individuals with dementia:

  • Memory loss
  • Trouble communicating
  • Trouble learning new information
  • Agitation and inappropriate behaviors
  • Paranoia and hallucinations

Types of Dementia

Because Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, some people use this term in place of other types of dementia.

However, there can be many forms of dementia. A few examples include:

  • Vascular dementia: A decreased flow of blood to the brain can cause brain damage.
  • Parkinson's disease dementia: The part of the brain that controls movement is affected and over time these effects can spread to other parts of the brain. This can affect things such as the individual's memory, attention, and judgment.
  • Lewy Body dementia: Abnormal round structures, which are called Lewy Bodies, develop in the brain causing difficulties to think and move.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: This describes different types of disorders that affect the frontal and temporal areas of the brain, which help control personality, language, and behaviors. This usually occurs in people at younger ages, around 40-70 years old.
  • Other medical problems: These are typically known as reversible dementias and can be caused by things such as medications, depression, and infections.

Most dementias are progressive, which means it will get worse over time. The disease will affect each individual differently so there may be periods of stability. Changes can occur quickly or over longer periods of time.


Stages of Dementia

Alzheimer's disease and related diseases can be grouped into three stages:

  • Early/mild
  • Middle/moderate
  • End-stage/severe

Early/ Mild Stage doctor talking to caregiver and elderly man

The early/mild stage usually lasts between 2 and 8 years. The individual may experience some forgetfulness but is able to function with some assistance. Other symptoms at this stage may include:

  • Short term memory loss
  • Errors in judgment
  • Slight difficulty in communicating
  • Unawareness of their difficulties
  • Disorientation to the time and where they are
  • Changes in behaviors or lifestyles
During this stage it is helpful to develop daily routines. For example, keeping meal times and grooming routines consistent and at the same time each day may be helpful.


Middle/ Moderate Stage

The middle/moderate stage of dementia may last between 3 and 6 years following the early/mild stage. In addition to the symptoms typically seen in the early/mild stages, individuals may also experience:

  • Short term and some long term memory loss
  • Increased need for help with daily tasks (such as grooming and bathing)
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Decreased mobility and balance
  • Restlessness or wandering
  • Emotional ups and downs

Severe/ End Stage

The severe/end stage of dementia may last between 1 and 4 years following the middle/moderate stage. Individuals in this stage may need constant assistance and supervision. In addition to the symptoms associated with the earlier stages, individuals in this stage may experience:

  • Difficulty talking or understanding
  • Difficulty following one-step commands
  • Repetition of words, phrases or motions
  • Incontinence
  • Behavioral problems
  • Decreased motor control


    Imagining your loved one in this state may be very difficult or painful.
    However, it is important for you to understand what the future may bring so that you can better prepare mentally and emotionally.
    It is still possible to enjoy a loving and fulfilling relationship, even in the late stages.




Additional Resources  Collage of photos with pictures representing computers and the

VA Resources

US Department of Veterans Affairs
VA values your commitment as a partner in our pledge to care for those who have "borne the battle." We have several support and service options designed with you in mind. The programs are available both in and out of your home to help you care for yourself and the Veteran you love.

Geriatrics and Extended Care Services (GEC) is committed to optimizing the health and well-being of Veterans with multiple chronic conditions, life-limiting illness, frailty or disability associated with chronic disease, agining or injury. This VA site reviews information on delirium, dementia and Alzheimer's care, decision making, home and community based services, and advance care planning, among many other important topics that may be important for you as a caregiver.

Veteran's Crisis Line Phone: 1-800-273-8255 (Veterans Press 1)

The VA does not endorse the following resources or guarantee that their information is 100% accurate.  However, you may be able to find some helpful information by visiting the following pages:

Alzheimer's Association

National Institute on Aging


References: Information adapted from Alzheimer’s Association, National Institute on Aging and Office of Rural Health

If you have any questions or concerns, contact us.