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What Are the 7 Stages of Vascular Dementia

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An older couple with grey hair is sitting on the couch together, staring out the window in peaceful contemplation.

Caring for a loved one with vascular dementia can be challenging. Vascular dementia is a common type of dementia that happens when blood flow to the brain is reduced, causing problems with memory, planning, and reasoning, possibly leading to the need for memory care.

If you or a loved one is dealing with this condition, it can be overwhelming to know what to expect. Understanding the progression of this condition is crucial in providing the best possible care. Stages include:

  • Stage 1: No Cognitive Impairment
  • Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 4: Moderate Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Decline
  • Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline

Learning about the stages of vascular dementia can help you prepare for the changes that come and continue to offer compassionate and practical support to your loved one.

What Is Vascular Dementia?

Vascular dementia is a common type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. While vascular dementia can result from a series of small strokes that damage brain tissue, it can also occur alongside other forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease. 

If linked to a stroke, vascular dementia progresses prominently, symptoms worsening in noticeable steps downwards with each subsequent stroke. 

Early Signs & Symptoms

Early detection of vascular dementia can make a significant difference in managing the condition. Initial symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty planning or organizing
  • Problems with attention and concentration
  • Slow thinking
  • Memory lapses

Stage 1: No Cognitive Impairment

At this stage, people show no noticeable signs of memory loss or cognitive decline. It’s the preclinical phase, during which vascular damage to the brain has begun but has not yet manifested in symptoms.

Regular check-ups and a healthy lifestyle can play a pivotal role in delaying the onset of symptoms.

Stage 2: Very Mild Cognitive Decline

In this stage, the person may experience slight forgetfulness, often mistaken for normal aging.

They might have minor issues recalling names or locating everyday items. Encouragement and patience are key, as these early signs can be subtle and easily overlooked.

Stage 3: Mild Cognitive Decline

Stage 3 marks the beginning of noticeable cognitive issues. Symptoms become more apparent, affecting daily life and work. People may struggle with:

  • Finding the right words during conversations
  • Remembering recent events or appointments
  • Managing complex tasks

At this point, seeking a professional diagnosis and considering creating a care plan is beneficial. Early intervention can provide coping strategies and help maintain quality of life.

Stage 4: Moderate Cognitive Decline

Older aged woman sitting alone at a senior living community, looking upset

During stage 4, cognitive decline becomes more evident. The person could require assistance with daily activities and show signs like:

  • Increased forgetfulness
  • Difficulty with problem-solving or reasoning
  • Challenges in social settings

Caregivers should focus on creating a supportive environment, ensuring safety, and encouraging independence where possible. Open communication about their preferences and needs is vital.

Stage 5: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline

In this stage, people often need considerable help with daily activities. Symptoms could include:

  • Significant memory gaps, especially regarding personal history
  • Disorientation about time and place
  • Trouble dressing appropriately

Establishing routines and simplifying tasks can help manage this stage more effectively. Emotional support and patience from caregivers is crucial during this period.

Stage 6: Severe Cognitive Decline

Stage 6 is characterized by severe memory loss and personality changes. The individual may:

  • Forget the names of close family members
  • Experience significant mood swings or behavioral changes
  • Need help with personal care activities such as bathing and dressing

Professional guidance from healthcare providers can be invaluable in managing this stage, prioritizing the person’s dignity and comfort throughout. 

Stage 7: Very Severe Cognitive Decline

The final stage of vascular dementia is marked by profound cognitive and physical decline. Individuals may:

  • Lose the ability to respond to their environment
  • Require assistance with all daily activities
  • Experience difficulty swallowing

Providing compassionate care focused on comfort and quality of life is paramount during stage 7. 

Managing & Coping with Vascular Dementia

Navigating the journey of vascular dementia requires resilience, understanding, and support–and not just for the individual experiencing it. Here are some strategies for managing and coping, whether for your loved one or yourself. 


Understanding the condition and its progression can empower you to make informed decisions. Stay updated with the latest research and best practices in dementia care.

Build a Support Network

Surround yourself with a strong community of family, friends, and healthcare professionals. Sharing experiences and seeking advice can provide emotional and practical support as you manage changes. 

Focus on Communication

Effective communication can significantly improve the care experience. Be patient, use simple language, and maintain eye contact. Listen actively and validate your loved one’s feelings.

Prioritize Self-Care

Caregiving can be demanding. Ensure you take time for yourself, engage in activities you enjoy, and seek respite care when needed. Your well-being is crucial to providing sustained care.

Explore Resources

Many resources are available to support caregivers, including support groups, counseling services, and educational programs. Don’t hesitate to reach out and utilize these valuable tools.

Ask for Support

Understanding the 7 stages of vascular dementia allows caregivers and families to anticipate changes, plan accordingly, and provide compassionate care tailored to your loved one’s needs.

By staying informed and connected, you can confidently navigate this journey and ensure your loved one receives the highest quality of care.

If you have any questions or need further support, don’t hesitate to contact us at Bella Mar at Royal Palm Beach. Together, we can create a nurturing and supportive environment for those with vascular dementia.

Written by Angela Clark

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