What Are the 7 Stages of Vascular Dementia?


When you hear the term dementia, do you automatically think of Alzheimer’s disease? It is common if you do because most people think that the two conditions are the same and interchangeable. However, dementia is a general term that is used to describe the loss of memory, language, judgment, or other cognitive skills that affects daily life.


There are many types of dementia but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type, accounting for 60-80% of all dementia cases. The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia. This dementia is caused by damage to the brain that happens due to a stroke or series of strokes. Let’s learn more about vascular dementia and how it may progress through various stages.


Vascular Dementia Stages


Vascular dementia is not always consistently progressive like Alzheimer’s disease, which means it cannot be described in specific stages. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease and other types of slowly progressing dementia, vascular dementia is quite unique to the individual.


Sometimes, vascular dementia arrives suddenly in the aftermath of a cardiovascular accident, also known as a CVA or stroke. Confusion, forgetfulness, word-finding difficulties, and restlessness are common vascular dementia symptoms that can show up after a stroke. The onset of dementia can make post-stroke recovery in a skilled nursing or hospital environment difficult, but the right personalized care and therapeutic approaches can ensure the person is comfortable while they undergo rehabilitation care.


Other times, vascular dementia comes on slowly. In these cases, the brain is slowly getting damaged due to not getting enough oxygen. This can be caused by a variety of cardiovascular conditions including blocked arteries. This slower progression can mimic Alzheimer’s disease and family members may not notice cognitive decline for years, depending on how the senior is coping with their forgetfulness and confusion.


Understanding the Timeline of Vascular Dementia Stages


While there might not be a solid stage timeline for all cases of vascular dementia, you can count on one of two options: a slow decline due to cardiovascular complications, or a “step-like” progression that happens due to stroke. 


In the step-like progression, the senior has a stroke and then has increased dementia symptoms. Then, the senior’s symptoms level out for a period of time. Then, there is another sharp decline after another stroke.


7 Stages of Vascular Dementia

Unlike Alzheimer’s disease and other types of progressive dementia, there are not 7 stages of vascular dementia. 


However, there are 7 stages of dementia that clinicians typically use to assess adults living with cognitive decline. Those 7 stages are:

  • Stage 1 - no cognitive decline

Some detailed brain scans might show some changes to the brain, but in this stage, the adult does not show any signs of cognitive decline.

  • Stage 2 - very mild cognitive decline

The person might begin to forget specific words or misplace things occasionally. This will likely go unnoticed by their family, friends, and partner.

  • Stage 3 - mild cognitive decline

During this stage, family members might begin to notice that the person has some short-term memory loss or is not quite as organized as they were in the past.

  • Stage 4 - moderate cognitive decline

In this stage, the person likely knows they are forgetting and therefore stops attending social events or programs that they once enjoyed. This is also often the stage when a physician is called in and a dementia diagnosis is made.

  • Stage 5 - moderately severe cognitive decline

In this stage, the person has noticeable cognitive decline and forgetfulness. They struggle with making good decisions and likely will need assistance with personal hygiene tasks.

  • Stage 6 - Severe cognitive decline

The person needs extensive assistance with daily tasks. They also are more likely to become anxious and confused; they may wander regularly.

  • Stage 7 - Very severe cognitive decline

In this final stage of dementia, the person becomes dependent or needs extensive assistance for activities of daily living. 


Getting Proper Care for Loved Ones Experiencing Vascular Dementia


If your loved one is living with vascular dementia, it is important to ensure they are safe, comfortable, and living life to the fullest. In most cases, you can find the support they need inside exceptional senior living communities. Senior living residences can provide not only a supervised environment that is designed to reduce fall risk and other safety hazards, but also a social and vibrant environment that allows your loved one to interact with new friends and pursue their favorite passions with the right amount of assistance and adaptations.


At Legend Senior Living, we offer a variety of senior living solutions that can meet the needs of someone living with vascular dementia. For example, our memory care communities are staffed with specially trained team members who are experienced with the best practices of dementia care. They are there to provide personalized assistance and encouraging words, as well as be there in case of emergency.


For someone who has recently had a stroke or who is recovering after an intense hospital stay, any of Legend’s skilled nursing residences can offer the around-the-clock clinical supervision that will help to enhance independence. Our skilled residences also feature on-site physical, occupational, and speech therapy services so that your loved one can recover before returning to their chosen home.


Vascular dementia can be sudden or progress slowly. In any case, your loved one will need support and individualized care from senior living professionals. It’s never too late or too early to begin your search for senior living options near you. Contact the Legend residence near you to schedule your tour today.