stages of dementia

Stages of Dementia and Available VA Programs

Dementia encompasses a range of diseases causing loss of memory and/or deterioration of other mental functions. The condition usually occurs from physical changes in the brain and is largely a progressive disease.  This means it typically gets worse over time. How dementia progresses will mainly depend on the underlying cause of dementia. Although people will experience the different stages of dementia differently, most patients will share a few common symptoms.

There are several different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being among the most common. It is reported 1 out of every 9 adults in the United States age 64 or older has dementia.  This number increases to 1 out of every 3 adults over the age of 85. The medical community often discusses dementia based on stages.  The different stages represent the level the disease has progressed and the kind of symptoms expected in each stage. This gives the caregivers an understanding of how their loved one stands with the disease and enables them to determine the better course of action.  


*This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The use of the Paths Law Firm website does not constitute a client-lawyer relationship.

The Three Stages of Dementia

Early Stage Dementia

Patients in the early stage of dementia usually have trouble remembering recent events, difficulty concentrating, have difficulty traveling to new places alone, and may have trouble managing their finances or remembering recently learned information. Patients also tend to start having difficulties socializing and might become unsociable withdrawn or avoid activities they previously enjoyed. While most of the symptoms here are mild, a physician can still diagnose dementia in its early stages. 

Middle Stage Dementia

The middle stage of dementia often sees patients having memory lapses. Aside from forgetting recent events, patients in this stage will start forgetting important information, such as their phone numbers, home address, and even the names of family members or close friends. While in this stage, most patients need some level of help performing daily activities such as meal preparation, bathing, and dressing. These and others are often referred to as Activities of Daily Living and abbreviated as ADLs.

Some patients in the middle and late stages of dementia also start seeing a decline in their ability to communicate and speak.  Incontinence will likely start becoming a problem. Other common problems include emotional issues and personality changes as the patient becomes agitated and anxious.  This may eventually lead to delusions. 

Late Stage Dementia

In the late stages of dementia, patients will often lose their ability to communicate and speak. Most patients will require help with the most basic activities such as eating or using the bathroom. Also, they may lose bodily function skills such as the ability to walk.

The best course of treatment to manage dementia will depend on the stage of dementia, and the patient’s overall health.

diagnose dementia

Managing the Stages of Dementia

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for dementia. However, several treatments have been shown to slow the progression of the disease, improve brain function, manage symptoms, and in many cases, improve the quality of life.

Research shows the key to effective dementia treatment is an early and accurate diagnosis. As such, it’s always important to consult a doctor if you notice any changes in your loved one’s memory and/or behavior.

Current dementia treatments are meant to improve the quality of life and slow the progression of the disease. These treatments are often a combination of therapies, medications, and symptom and/or behavior management strategies. 

Medications for Dementia

Properly prescribed Dementia medications can help to manage and temporarily relieve symptoms related to cognitive and memory function. Most medications are effective in the early and middle stages of dementia. Some of the most common ones include:

For some cases, medication may be prescribed to help manage other conditions commonly associated with dementia. Many patients tend to struggle with depression, insomnia, anxiety, and psychosis.  Properly prescribed medications can help manage these symptoms and improve their quality of life. Examples of these medications include:

  • Antidepressants: used to improve mood and brain function
  • Anxiolytics: for relieving agitation and anxiety
  • Hypnotics: used to help the patients fall and stay asleep at night
  • Antipsychotics: for minimizing hallucinations and treating psychosis
stages of demenitia

Alternative Treatments for Stages of Dementia

Along with medications, dementia treatment often includes supportive care and therapies. These may help with behavioral problems to improve mood, reduce agitation, and increase relaxation. Here are a few examples of effective therapies for dementia:

Alternative medicine: A lot of doctors are now suggesting alternative medicines like massage therapy and acupuncture could be helpful with dementia, alongside medication. Such therapies help stimulate blood flow (massage) and improve energy (acupuncture). They can also ease the symptoms and help to relieve physical tension and pain. 

Aromatherapy: This is a safe way to help relieve agitation. Aromas like lavender and lemon are reported to help create a soothing environment promoting calmness and relaxation.

Art therapy: This has been shown to improve quality of life and slow cognitive decline, though more studies are needed to confirm the benefits for patients with dementia.

Brain exercises: According to research, brain training games and puzzles like Sudoku and Crossword Puzzles may help to slow down the progression of dementia. Playing board games, reading books regularly, and playing card games are all great brain exercises.

Cognitive rehabilitation: This helps patients in the early stages of dementia to maintain cognitive and memory function for as long as possible. It also teaches them compensation strategies to help those with declining cognition.

Diet: Diets rich in cruciferous vegetables, green vegetables and fish have been shown to have a positive impact on the symptoms of dementia. Foods rich in antioxidants can also help protect cells from damage.

Music therapy: According to research, listening to or singing soothing songs can help to reduce aggression and agitation.

Occupational therapy: This helps patients in the early and middle stages of dementia by teaching them coping strategies and behaviors to compensate for their cognitive decline and memory loss. It also helps their families make their homes safer for their loved one and provide techniques for managing difficult behaviors.

Pet therapy: This can help reduce irritability, agitation, anxiety, depression, and even loneliness. Many communities offering memory care usually have a pet resident or provide pet therapy. Seniors in such communities can enjoy the companionship of a pet without the responsibilities of caring for one.

Physical activity: Light and regular exercise has consistently been shown to help people with dementia perform better with their daily tasks and improve their mood and depression.

dementia diet

Memory Care for Veterans with Dementia

Memory care facilities are specially designed to provide housing and care for patients living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. These facilities offer a safe, specially designed environment caring for the residents with a focus on improving their quality of life, preventing wandering, and reducing confusion.

This approach to dementia helps residents maintain their skills for as long as possible, while also providing them with stimulating and enriching activities helping stimulate their cognition and improve their quality of life. Some of the benefits of memory care include:

  • Supportive therapies for dementia 
  • safe and secure environment for seniors with dementia
  • A low staff to resident ratio
  • Highly trained and experienced staff in dementia care
  • Coordinated and wholesome care, usually in partnership with other healthcare providers

 Veterans with any form of dementia could be eligible for certain services and benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans and their surviving spouses could be eligible for VA benefits that can help to pay for care related to dementia.  

dementia care

VA Programs for Memory Care

While there are many different programs through the VA for veterans with Dementia, below are some programs for which individuals may qualify.

  1. Home Health Aide Care: A homemaker or home health aide provides care to the patient in their home.  These individuals are trained to provide care in a home setting for non-medical services.  This program is for veterans needing assistance with activities of daily living.  It is also intended for veterans that are either isolated or have a caregiver experiencing a burden and needs help.  
  2. Veteran Directed Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS): This program assists veterans needing help with three or more daily living activities such as bathing, getting dressed, or preparing meals, the Activities of Daily Living. 
  3. VA Aide and Attendance: The VA Aide and Attendance program provides monthly payments, in addition to a monthly pension, for veterans and surviving spouses if they otherwise qualify.  This program provides reimbursement for expenses on care for individuals needing help with daily living activities.   This program provides funding for in-home care, adult daycare, and supplies needed for care, and many other possibilities.
  4. Community Nursing Home Care: This program is for veterans that need residential care 24/7 with skilled nursing and memory care.  Eligibility for this program is determined based on a service-connected disability, the level of the veteran’s disability, and their income.
  5. VA Community Living Centers:  A CLC or Community Living Center is a VA Nursing Care Center providing 24/7 residential care with skilled nursing and memory care services.  A CLC is designed to resemble a home setting as much as possible.  Like the Community Nursing Care program, eligibility is based on service-connected disability, level of disability, and income.
  6. State Veterans Home: A State Veterans Home provides 24/7 skilled nursing care, domiciliary care, adult daycare, and memory care in a VA run facility.  Eligibility for a State Veterans Home is determined by the state in which the veteran resides.

dementia care programs

Memory Care for Dementia Through the VA

The cost of care for individuals with dementia can oftentimes cause a big financial strain on family members.  For veteran’s, the process of applying for and getting approved for benefits can be lengthy and confusing.  At Paths Elder Law, our staff is highly skilled and experienced in VA and Medicaid benefits.  We can help you apply for benefits and work through the eligibility process to help you get the care you or your loved one needs for the different stages of dementia.

If you have any questions about VA programs for memory care and creating a long-term care plan, get in touch with Paths Elder Law today by visiting our website or giving us a call at 816-524-7999 to schedule a consultation.  Our caring staff is here to help.

Educational Seminar at Paths Law Firm

Paths Law Firm provides a Free Educational Elder Law Seminar every month to help you plan for your future.

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan Foley at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Ryan D. Foley

Ryan graduated from the UMKC School of Law in 2018 and passed the Missouri Bar that year. Prior to law school, Ryan attended the University of Missouri – Columbia where he attained a degree in Business. He is a Kansas City native, growing up in the Northland where he achieved his Eagle Scout rank by doing a project for his high school. During his time in law school, Ryan was introduced to the practice area of Elder Law by one of his professors and has been

Ryan enjoys working with and educating clients to provide advocacy and support during the unfamiliar and often overwhelming probate process. Ryan understands the challenges faced by individuals when faced by the uncertainty and complexity of government systems or even handling a Trust during a time of grief, and he strives to make the process as easy as possible.

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

administrative assistant at Paths Law

Administrative Assistant

Makaylee A. Morelli

Makaylee is currently working on her bachelor’s in political science and hopes to soon start law school as an aspiring attorney. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her friends and family but most importantly her dogs Taffyta, Tallulah Belle, and Harry. Their favorite thing to do is go on coffee dates and get pup cups.

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

Kathleen Overton, attorney at Paths Law

Attorney

Kathleen E. Overton

After starting her career as a disability attorney, Kathleen transitioned into estate planning at a mid-sized regional law firm. Kathleen joined Paths Law Firm in 2021 when she decided to return to a boutique law firm that provides excellent service and quality to clients. Because of her background as a disability attorney, she brings a thorough understanding of public benefits to each client meeting. At Paths Law FIrm, Kathleen focuses on traditional estate planning and business entity formation, providing tailored advice unique to each client’s situation.

Public Benefits Assistant

Tena K. Dooley

Public Benefits Assistant

Amanda D. Martin

I have my Associates in Applied Science and have over 20 years of office management experience. I have two daughters and one grandson.

During my time away from the office I enjoy spending time with my family.  I enjoy almost everything outdoors and my hobbies include fishing and gardening.

PARALEGAL

Sydney R. Morris

Paths Law elder law in Kansas City

PARALEGAL

Sydney

Sydney is currently enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City pursuing an accounting degree and plans to later attend law school.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her nephews and volunteering at her local church.

 

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

client service manager at Paths Law

CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER

Christy L. Phillips

Phone: 816-640-8635
Email: [email protected]

Christy has 3 years of experience in Elder Law working for seniors and their families as a Benefits Coordinator processing Medicaid and VA applications. Prior to joining Paths Law Firm Christy worked in the finance industry for over 10 years.

 

Christy’s experience in the finance industry has been extremely beneficial to her role as Benefits Coordinator. There have been many influences that went into her decision to select the field of Elder Law. Christy has a special place in her heart for the elderly and attributes this to her relationship with her grandparents.

When asked why she loves what she does, Christy said that at Paths Elder law, she gets the opportunity to help clients in more ways than one. Her favorite part of her job is getting clients approved for Medicaid or VA benefits as it is a huge relief for them and their loved ones.

Christy was raised in Ogden, Utah, and moved to Independence, MO, when she was ten years old. She has two children that keep her busy and fill her life with joy! Christy’s daughter cheers for Avila University, and her son plays competitive baseball for the Bucks and races BMX locally for the Motorcycle Closeout Team.

When Christy is not working, she enjoys crafting and making homemade gifts for her loved ones and raising her kids to be healthy, happy, and positive humans.

 

Practice Areas

  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits

 

Professionalc Memberships and Affiliations

  • Missouri Notary

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René A. Fracassa

Rene A. Fracassa, Paths Law

FINANCIAL MANAGER

René

René has worked along side Rusty for 35 years. Not only is she part of the Paths team, she is also his wife. René spends her time working with the accountant to keep all of the finances in order, as well as general office management.

In addition to helping run the office, she helps manage the family and grandkids, tries to keep everyone fed, and has a passion to teach Bible Studies. Her former career in Event Planning trained her to juggle all the activity. She understands Rusty’s passion to serve people from the first mention of law school. It is a great pleasure for her to be an important part of every area of his life.

 

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary R. Tichota

Hillary at Paths Law

MARKETING MANAGER

Hilary

Hilary plays a vital role in the daily operations of the office. In addition to her regular office duties, Hilary has a heart of gold.

For more than 5 years, Hilary has operated the front desk at Paths, running the office and catering to clients. Hilary recently moved into the role of Community Relations Coordinator. She has a passion for people and a focus to share our business practices with the community’s seniors, businesses, and clients. She especially has a heart for seniors, showing they are loved through her visits, treats, the “Pen to Pal” program, and volunteering services at various senior living communities. She is a wonderful wife and mother of two. Most activities with seniors involve her great talent for any type of craft.

 

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer A. Bronson

Jennifer, senior paralegal

SR. PARALEGAL & OPERATIONS MANAGER

Jennifer

Jennifer has been in the legal field for over 25 years and considers Paths her second home.

When she’s not running the office or working for our clients, she’s spending time with her first passion – her children.

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

attorney at Paths Law elder law

ATTORNEY

Russell A. Fracassa (Rusty)

Phone: 816-640-8635

When asked what he wants to do, his reply was “I just want to sit at the kitchen table and work directly with people.” Rusty enjoys working with clients providing experienced advocacy and supporting them through their unfamiliar and overwhelming situations. Due to all the challenges faced by seniors, it is essential to work with an experienced elder law attorney who has expertise in the law, issues, and concerns affecting seniors and their families.

Rusty brings nearly 30 years legal experience and expertise working for seniors and their families as an elder law attorney in Kansas City and surrounding. Prior to law school, Rusty was a practicing accountant. This provides invaluable experience in his current practice of law. Rusty decided to put his focus on helping the elderly, vulnerable adults, and their families navigate challenging life, end of life, and death events.

Rusty understands the challenges faced by individuals whose capacity is declining and how upsetting the loss of a loved one can be. He understands he may not be able to eliminate his client’s grief from loss, but he strives to provide clients with peace of mind. Rusty works directly with client’s long term care issues, including Medicaid, Veteran’s Benefits, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Special Needs Planning.

In 2010, Rusty’s faith and love led him and part of his family to China as Christian missionaries. He and his wife, went permanently, but ended up dedicating 3 years to that ministry. They returned to Missouri to help with grandchildren after a family tragedy and later began anew with Paths Elder Law. The goal is providing compassionate care through legal advocacy.

When Rusty is not practicing law, he enjoys spending time with his family, grandchildren, and excessive eating at local restaurants.

 

Practice Areas

 

  • Wills and Trusts
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection
  • Medicaid Benefits
  • VA Benefits
  • Probate
  • Guardianship and Conservatorships
  • Education

 

BSBA and Master’s in Accounting, Master’s in Inter-Cultural Studies, and Doctorate in Juris Prudence

  • Rockhurst University
  • Liberty University
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City


Admissions to Practice

  • Missouri


Professional Memberships and Affiliations

  • State Bar of Missouri
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (long-time Member)
  • Elder Counsel (Charter and Ongoing Member)
  • Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (Past Member)
  • Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Missouri State Bar Committees – Elder Law, Estate Planning, Probate