Dementia: Identify Beginning Signs and Symptoms

dementia identify beginning signs and symptoms

Senior moments are the stuff jokes are made of. When true forgetfulness or confusion sets in, however, it’s no laughing matter. Seniors in the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s can be very embarrassed or scared, and their safety can be put at risk, as the result of mental lapses.

For this reason, it’s important to know the difference between normal, age-related forgetfulness and dementia or other dementia-related cognitive decline. Some of the changes are very subtle, but if you know what to look for, you’ll be able to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional sooner rather than later. Today’s and memory care and treatment options, as well as new medications, can significantly slow down dementia’s development – but early diagnosis and treatment are key.

If you think you or someone you love suffers from dementia-related memory loss, schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Proactive care, including in-home care and support, can make all the difference when it comes to supporting general well-being and independence.

Normal age-related memory loss

All kinds of forgetful moments show up on the very normal spectrum of “age-related memory loss.” These include things like forgetting a person’s name, not remembering where you put the grocery list, having a hard time remembering which year you went on that Hawaiian vacation, etc.

While irritating at best, or embarrassing at worst (like forgetting a person’s name or a lunch date), these memory lapses are completely normal. In fact, while it may be a sign of aging, occasional forgetfulness is just as likely to occur as the result of depression, anxiety, stress, a busy schedule, lack of sleep and so on.

Dementia-related memory loss

Dementia-related memory loss is much more serious than age-related memory loss. It’s important to note the difference because signs and symptoms of dementia can emerge as long as 15-years prior to actual diagnosis, by which point it can be too late to make a difference. By catching dementia early, while in its earliest stages, doctors can prescribe diet and lifestyle changes, brain training exercises and/or certain medications to slow down its onset and preserve mental agility for as long as possible.

The following are some of the mild to moderate symptoms of dementia:

More difficulty with short-term memory issues

During the beginning stages, adults with dementia may remember events or information from long ago in great detail, but they have difficulty with short-term memory. Perhaps they can tell you a funny story from second grade, or an embarrassing moment on their wedding day, but they can’t remember what they did last weekend or where the family spent the holidays last year.

A general and more routine forgetfulness

Age-related memory loss can make it more difficult to remember the name of a casual acquaintance or someone you met last week – every once in a while. Dementia-related memory loss becomes routine. All of a sudden, you’re forgetting names and faces or appointments on a regular basis, rather than just once in a great while. For example, forgetting a doctor’s appointment once is okay, forgetting it multiple times – even when it’s written on the calendar – is another.

Inability to focus and/or becoming distracted more frequently

Those with dementia-related memory problems will find it more difficult to focus on tasks that were easy in the past, such as reading directions while driving or following a new recipe, keeping up with the news, and so on. As a result, they may wander away while the chocolate chip cookie dough was only half finished, and not remember to return. The checkbook that was meticulously balanced previously is now neglected or filled with errors and omissions. A person with dementia might forget the rules of a favorite game or have trouble following along while playing cards.

For most of us, an occasional gaffe is cause for anxiety or defensiveness, but you might find a person with dementia reacts with even more embarrassment, shame, anxiety or even anger because deep down they sense – or know – that something is wrong.

Notable and atypical shifts in mood or temperament

A person who was grouchy in general is prone to being even more grouchy during the senior years. However, those with dementia may experience more severe swings in mood or temperament, ranging from uncharacteristic bursts of anger to bouts of depression or intense clinginess with their partner or another family member.

As things progress, seniors with dementia can get lost on during their daily walk around the block or while running errands in the car. Stove burners might be left on or basic hygiene is neglected. At this point, more serious interventions must take place in order to keep the individual (as well as others) safe and ensure their daily needs are taken care of.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s should be diagnosed by a healthcare professional

While dementia isn’t a disease, it is diagnosable based on established tests and screening available via a trusted physician. Schedule an appointment for an assessment if you feel memory issues are affecting your quality of life. In some cases, you may learn a latent medical condition or the side effects of a particular medication (or even a urinary tract infection!) are the culprits.

If a loved one has recently been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, we recommend reading, Connecting With And Caring For Those With Dementia. You can also schedule an appointment for a free, in-home assessment with a local home care provider to learn more about the services available to you to help your loved one age-in-place.

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