The 7 Stages of Frontotemporal Dementia and What to Expect When Caring for Loved Ones

Jun 6, 2024

If a loved one has recently been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), it is likely a distressing and confusing time for everybody. Learning as much as you can about the condition gives you the best tools to support a friend or family member. You may have heard of the 7 stages of frontotemporal dementia, which we’ll discuss further in this article.

We’d like to note that Group Homes Australia understands everybody experiences frontotemporal dementia in a different way. The 7 stages as discussed in this article are a guide, but should not be taken as a guaranteed roadmap. The best support comes by helping your loved one deal with their unique needs each day.

What are the 7 stages of frontotemporal dementia?

Depending on who you speak to, you will probably get slightly different terminology when addressing the 7 stages of frontotemporal dementia. The reality is that everybody’s journey is different, and it isn’t responsible to suggest that each person will follow the same staged progress through the condition. For that reason, as we go into more detail, we’ll focus more on the types of changes you can expect when caring for your loved one.

The commonly accepted 7 stages of frontotemporal dementia are as follows:

  •       Stage 1: Mild cognitive changes
  •       Stage 2: Behavioural changes
  •       Stage 3: Language Impairment
  •       Stage 4: Difficulty with daily tasks
  •       Stage 5: Personality and mood changes
  •       Stage 6: Memory deterioration
  •       Stage 7: Severe cognitive impairment

The important thing to remember is that people may experience a gradual decline in many of these categories. Memory deterioration often occurs alongside the very first cognitive changes, so these ‘stages’ don’t necessarily follow a strict order. Each person will have a different time to consider permanent care, just as each diagnosis can come at a different stage.  

Mild cognitive changes

As with any condition, the early stages of frontotemporal dementia are less severe. Typically, a person’s early symptoms will be very subtle. Signs could be mild memory lapses, and a slight difficulty in concentration.

Behavioural changes

A person living with frontotemporal dementia may experience a range of behavioural changes. These might include anti-social behaviour, withdrawal from or difficulties during social activities, or impulsive actions. These behavioural changes are often accompanied by a decline in decision-making and problem-solving skills.

Language impairment

Language impairment can take many forms for a person experiencing FTD. The earliest signs are usually having trouble expressing thoughts. However, other signs might include difficulty finding the right words. Progressively, a person’s speech will deteriorate further, and communication can become difficult.

The other side of language and communication is a person’s ability to comprehend complex information. As such, it is crucial to communicate according to a person’s capabilities on any given day, as language and communication ability can vary.

Difficulty with daily tasks

People living with FTD can also experience difficulty in managing regular daily activities. This can extend to self care, but may also manifest as being unable to plan or organise tasks. It may also impact a persons ability to sequence. Meaning they may be able to do one step or stage of a task, but have difficulty remembering what comes next.  

Personality and mood changes

While subtle to start with, a person living with FTD will typically experience more drastic personality changes as the condition progresses. When this aspect worsens, it can severely affect a person’s ability to handle social and emotional situations. This type of dementia impacts a persons ability to filter emotion and content, which is typically done by the Frontal Lobe of the brain. 

Memory deterioration

Memory loss is not as common in the early stages of FTD as it is with other forms of dementia. However, it is still part of the condition, as memory lapses are likely to gradually worsen. A person may have severe problems recalling recent events or conversations in the later stages of FTD. 

Severe cognitive impairment

In the stages of severe cognitive impairment, a person requires significant care and support. A person may lose verbal communication skills and have mobility issues. Essentially, most aspects of daily life are affected, and many people require additional care and support. 

Group Homes Australia offers a range of care and support services to assist people living with dementia and their families. Whether you’re in the early stages of planning ahead for life with dementia, or you’re closer to considering permanent care, we have several resources and support for you to rely on. To find out more about how we can help, contact the team at Group Homes Australia today.

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