Memory Care, 35th Anniversary

Dementia Stages

At Sunrise Senior Living, we are dedicated to providing communities that are safe, familiar and stimulating to individuals with memory loss. Understanding the symptoms and stages of dementia is important for anyone who may be at risk for developing the condition. Early detection of dementia can help slow the progression of cognitive decline, increase overall quality of life and aid in the caregiving process.

Researchers have identified three systems used to evaluate the different stages of the progression of dementia systems including the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia (GDS), the Functional Assessment Staging Test (FAST), and the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR).

Although there are questionnaires and tests available on the internet that may help to diagnose dementia, a doctor should administer a patient’s tests for an accurate diagnosis. This will determine not only which stage of dementia is present, but also which type of dementia. The CDR scale allows doctors and researchers to gauge a person’s ability to perform in different areas of cognition and functioning, including:

  • Orientation
  • Memory
  • Judgment
  • Home and hobbies
  • Personal care
  • Community 


Early-Stage Dementia (CDR-1)

Early-stage dementia is characterized by mild impairment, which is a score of 1 on the Clinical Dementia Rating scale. While symptoms of early-stage dementia are mild, they are still typically noticeable to friends and family around them. It’s especially important as a family member or caregiver to keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • Forgetfulness and memory loss
  • Losing items without being able to retrace steps to find them
  • Trouble managing finances, such as balancing a checkbook and forgetting about bills
  • Neglect of household chores or personal hygiene
  • Confusion while driving
  • Trouble managing medications
  • Loss of concentration

People diagnosed with early-stage dementia are still able to live independently, however it is important that they have access to regular care to ensure they are taken care of physically, emotionally, and financially. 


Mid-Stage Dementia (CDR-2)

A diagnosis of CDR-2 is equivalent to mid-stage dementia, which is slightly more impairment than early-stage dementia, but still characterized by moderate impairment. While there is no set timeline for how quickly or slowly someone transitions between dementia stages, signs of mid-stage dementia include: 

  • Disorientation in terms of time and space
  • Easily lost
  • Struggle to understand time relationships 
  • Difficulty remembering new things, including people 
  • Feeling moody or withdrawn in social situations or when experiencing a cognitive challenge 
  • Trouble with bladder control 
  • Restless at night or a change in typical sleep patterns

Once your loved one’s memory loss progresses to mid-stage dementia, they will require more day-to-day care. For caregivers, this increase in necessary care can be overwhelming, so we created the Sunrise Caregiver Guide to help caregivers better understand the memory loss journey.  


Late-Stage Dementia (CDR-3)

A diagnosis of CDR-3 is a determination that the symptoms associated with dementia have become more advanced. 24-hour care is generally required for those diagnosed with late-stage dementia. Symptoms of late-stage dementia typically include:  

  • Extreme memory loss 
  • No understanding of orientation in time
  • Extremely limited social abilities, even with assistance 
  • Requiring help with day-to-day activities, such as eating and bathing
  • Wandering and becoming lost if unsupervised

If your loved one has been diagnosed with CDR-3, the best way to care for them is to enlist the help of trained professionals. When looking for a person or place to care for your loved one with dementia, consider the quality of care as well as the environment and existing group dynamic.

Find Custom Care at Sunrise 

Sunrise Senior Living’s memory care services focus on providing a safe, familiar and stimulating environment for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Our memory care team is specially trained in dementia care techniques such as Validation® Therapy, and we personalize each resident’s care based on their preferences and care needs. 

Recent research has shown that personalized care programs have the biggest impact on those living with dementia. At Sunrise, personalized programs include multi-sensory experiences, daily exercise and outings, group activities, and visits with children and pets. Schedule a tour at a community near you to learn more about the memory care at Sunrise.

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