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Page | Last updated: 29 Nov 2021

Overview of the three stages of dementia

Dementia prevention

Overview of the three stages of dementia and the most common symptoms

Sources: World Health Organization (2018) , (2019) , (2012)

Stages of dementiaa      Common symptoms includeb
Early stage (1st - 2nd year)
  • Forgetfulness, especially of recent events
  • Difficulty with communication (aphasia & dysphasia)
  • Losing track of the time (date, year, season)
  • Becoming lost in familiar places
  • Changes in mood and behaviour (e.g. less active, unusual aggressive reactions, shows signs of depression or anxiety)
Middle stage (2nd-5th year)
  • Becoming very forgetful of recent events and people's names
  • Severe disorientation in time (time, date, chronological order of events)
  • Severe disorientation in well-known spaces (e.g. home, neighbourhood)
  • Having increasing difficulty with communication (speech and comprehension)
  • Needing help with personal care and activities of daily living (e.g. cooking, cleaning, shopping)
  • Experiencing behaviour changes, including wandering, disturbed sleeping patterns, repeated questioning and hallucinating (auditive, visual)
  • Display of ‘inappropriate’ behaviours (e.g. aggression, disinhibition, undressing in public spaces)
Last stage (5th year and up)
  • Becoming unaware of the time and place
  • Having difficulty recognizing relatives and friends
  • Having an increasing need for assisted self-care
  • Having difficulty walking
  • Experiencing behaviour changes that may escalate and include aggression


a Indicative time frame only, the syndrome might progress quickly or more slowly in every disease or case. Stages aren’t discrete, rather disease progression is gradual and a continuum.

b These symptoms are the most common, nevertheless they do not appear with every type of dementia. Not every person with dementia will necessarily present all these symptoms.