Some Possible Causes of Sudden Worsening of Dementia

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a condition characterized by progressive or persistent loss of intellectual functioning, especially with impairment of memory and abstract thinking, and often with personality change, resulting from organic disease of the brain.

There are a wide variety of different types of Dementia including Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia and others. They all have a variety of symptoms which include unpredictability and steady decline of cognitive abilities of the affected family member.

Alliance Senior Care Home Care provides Specialty Care Services which can be tailored specifically to your loved one’s needs. In-Home care services include healthcare, household services, assisting with transportation to and from doctor’s appointments and nutrition and meals.

CTA Specialty Care Services

In-Home care also provides companionship and will help monitor your loved one’s symptoms. In-Home care can also assist with care transitions as they are needed.

What could cause a sudden worsening of dementia?

In addition to dementia itself, there can be other causes of worsening symptoms.


Delirium is a state of confusion that comes on suddenly. It occurs due to an underlying physical cause. Some common causes of delirium include:

  • Infection: Infections are a common cause of delirium. People with dementia are especially vulnerable to urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Anesthesia and surgery: Anesthesia or the physical demands of undergoing a medical procedure may result in delirium. In some cases, delirium can persist after a person leaves hospital afterward.
  • Medication: Medication side effects cause around 39%Trusted Source of delirium cases. Medication withdrawal can also lead to delirium, so if a person has recently started or stopped a medication, this could be the reason.

People with advanced dementia may also develop delirium in response to more minor conditions, such as constipation, dehydration, or lack of sleep.

Because delirium can be hard to distinguish from dementia, it is important to speak with a doctor about any signs of infection or sickness.

Doctors treat delirium by addressing the root cause and treating it. For example, they may prescribe antibiotics for an infection or change a person’s medication.

Stroke or brain injury

An injury to the brain, such as from a fall or a stroke, may cause symptoms that seem similar to dementia. Some signs of stroke to watch for include:

  • sudden confusion
  • trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • inability to move one side of the face or body
  • sudden change in balance or coordination
  • sudden loss of vision
  • sudden and severe headache

If a person has any or more than one of these symptoms, immediately call 911 or the local emergency number.

People can also develop new or worsened dementia symptoms after a stroke or head injury.

Change in routine

People with dementia often rely on their routines as a source of comfort. A daily routine helps a person know what to expect. This means that a sudden disruption in routine may cause dementia symptoms to get worse. This is especially true if a person experiences stress.

Some changes that might trigger worsening symptoms include:

  • moving to an assisted living facility or a nursing home
  • moving in with family or out of the family home
  • hospitalization
  • having new caregivers

Sundowner’s syndrome

Sundowning, or sundowner’s syndrome, is the tendency for dementia symptoms to get worse as evening approaches. This change may appear sudden to caregivers. It can result in more confusion, agitation, or frustration. The person may also communicate less effectively.

Medications may help with specific symptoms, such as agitation or hallucinations. Exposure to natural light, a consistent routine, and compassionate support can also help ease symptoms.

Rapidly progressing dementia

Rapidly progressing dementia is a type of dementia that progresses much faster than is typical of more common dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It typically occurs because of an underlying illness, such as prion disease, an autoimmune disease that attacks the brain, infection, or cancer.

Because some of these conditions are treatable, it is important for doctors to test for other potential causes to determine whether it is possible to treat this form of dementia.

What are the Stages of Dementia?

There are many types of dementia, each with different features. As a result, there is no set of stages that applies to all of them.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It typically progresses as follows:

  • Early stage: A person may experience mild cognitive issues, such as trouble remembering words, getting lost, or problems with short-term memory.
  • Middle stage: A person develops more significant cognitive problems that may affect their ability to perform daily self-care or live alone.
  • Late stage: The body begins to shut down. A person may not recognize others or speak. They may become incontinent and stop responding to their environment.

It is important to note that not everyone moves through these stages in the same way or at the same rate.

What to do if dementia symptoms suddenly get worse?

If someone with dementia experiences new or worsening symptoms, do not assume that this is typical or that symptoms are not treatable. Contact a doctor at the earliest opportunity.

If the person with dementia is able to speak or express themselves, ask them about their symptoms and experiences. Some strategies that can help with diagnosis include:

  • keeping a log of all new symptoms and when they occur
  • telling a doctor about any recent changes, such as a move to an assisted living facility
  • noting any bruises or other signs of injury


Dementia is a progressive disease. Sometimes, caregivers may notice a sudden worsening of dementia symptoms. This could be a natural part of the disease course, or it could indicate an underlying medical condition.

Sudden changes in awareness, thinking, mobility, or personality could be due to delirium, stroke, or simply a change in routine that has caused distress. Because some of these potential causes require immediate treatment, it is important to consult a doctor if a person’s dementia symptoms suddenly get worse.

Home Care can play a key role in the well being of your loved one with Dementia. Call us today to get a consult for your elderly loved one.

To get started with Home Care can help improve your loved ones’ quality of life, call Alliance Senior Care at 248-274-2170.  It’s not just Home Care, it is Integrated Care.

Home Care are an excellent resource for family caregivers and seniors alike.

Alliance Senior Care Home Care solutions offer a wide range of services providing healthcare, daily living assistance, transportation to and from Doctor’s appointments and tailored care services for additional circumstances.

If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring a Caregiver in Bloomfield Hills, MI, please contact the caring staff at Alliance Senior Care today.
Call (248) 274-2170.