Know The Warning Signs Of Dementia

know the warning signs of dementia

It is easy to miss the first warning signs of dementia, either because we laugh them off as “senior moments,” or because the undeniable red flags feel too scary or sad to address head-on. That said, it is essential to know and honor the first warning signs of dementia or age-related memory loss.  

Doing so ensures you get an accurate diagnosis, can create a customized long-term care plan that includes input from the person while s/he can still speak for him/herself, and gives you time to make lifestyle changes that notably slow down the disease’s progression. 

First and foremost, your care plan should consider whether the goal is to age-in-place with graduated in-home care as needed or whether it is time to transition into an assisted living community. Studies are clear that creating and implementing a care plan immediately, rather than when dementia gets to the mid to later stages improves the quality of life for both the patient and their spouse and family members. 

In addition to knowing and recognizing the warning signs of dementia, we recommend visiting our page on Connecting With and Caring for Those with Dementia, which can help spouses and family members learn new ways to enjoy quality time with loved ones when memory loss moves into the mid to later stages of the disease. 

Dementia: A Broad Term Describing Progressive Memory Loss 

Dementia is defined as a “decline and/or loss of memory, reasoning, judgment, behavior, language and other mental abilities that are not a part of normal aging; it usually progressively worsens over time.” It is a broad term that encompasses many of the other diagnoses that lead to dementia, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia yet, nor can it be reversed in most cases. Some patients who catch it early and make significant lifestyle changes – specifically in regards to diet, supplementation, exercise, and sleep habits – can find their symptoms diminish for a while.  

That said, the early diagnosis and treatment of dementia can notably increase the patient’s quality of life. 

9 Common Warning Signs Of Dementia 

Here are nine common warning signs of dementia. Not everyone experiences the same thing. The main thing is for partners, spouses, and family members to pay attention and consider scheduling an appointment with their senior loved one’s general practitioner (GP) if any of these signs become apparent or are in direct opposition to the senior’s normal way of being. 

Forgetting names, faces, appointments, and due dates 

Of course, we all forget these things from time to time, but someone in the early stages of dementia forgets more often than usual. This can lead to the moodiness and irritability cited below because s/he feel embarrassed, ashamed, and defensive when these lapses are caught or obvious. Forgetting names and faces can also cause people with early stages of dementia to retreat from their social groups and favorite activities. 

NOTE: This level of forgetfulness also leads to forgetting to take medications, which can make dementia worse and exacerbate underlying medical conditions. Read, Medication Reminders are Lifesavers for Seniors with Dementia to learn more about how you and caregivers can help.  

Easily confused and disoriented in new (and familiar) places 

You may get a call from your loved one that s/he is in a parking lot and can’t remember his/her way home. Or, you may wind up with a knock on the door, only to find a neighbor or police officer returning your senior spouse or family member after s/he was found wandering, lost or confused.  

This easy confusion and disorientation is unnerving and is a major red flag that something needs to be done to keep your loved one safe and secure at all times of the day and night. 

Losing or forgetting their words 

In the beginning, losing a word here or there may seem funny or almost like a joke. Enough repeats of this, though, and both the individual and those closest to him/her will realize it is more than just the occasional glitch. In the beginning, s/he may compensate for word loss by finding a synonym or describing what the word means.  

Over time, word loss will become more common and by the later stages of dementia, the person will experience aphasia, which is the loss of intelligible speech and conversations. 

Difficulty performing familiar tasks 

Cooks may struggle to follow recipes or to make their favorite dishes; avid gardeners might be found repeatedly weeding the same patch or pulling out flowers or plants instead of the weeds. House Cleaning and laundry may be left undone or only partially completed and you may notice that the pantry has 12 cans of beans but nothing else. All of these are signs of potential memory loss and that additional care is required.  

FYI: Difficulty performing familiar tasks may not be related to dementia but are still a sign that your loved one requires additional support. Click Here to read about the most common signs that a senior needs more help around the house. 

Personality changes

Short-term memory loss can result in personality changes that are noticeable pretty early on. This can mean a retreat from favorite activities or groups to moving from a meticulous housekeeper to a hoarder. Moodiness and irritability can also plague typically cheerful people. On the flip side, previously serious or quiet people can become quite giddy, childlike, or silly. 

Mood swings 

The effects of dementia can be devastating for couples or close family members if it goes undiagnosed for too long. All of a sudden, your formerly loving and gentle spouse can become irritable, short-tempered, and even verbally or physically abusive. You may also notice signs of depression or anxiety

Poor judgement

The decline in short-term memory and critical thinking can lead to poor judgment. For example, taking the keys and driving when it has already been determined that s/he shouldn’t be behind the wheel

Paranoia or suspiciousness 

This can be challenging on so many levels. People with dementia may hear voices or see people or things that aren’t there. They may feel they are being recorded or surveilled, or they may accuse family members of caregivers of being thieves, undercover agents, or always under suspicion. 

Working with a licensed caregiving agency is one of the best things you can do to help eliminate your own suspicions. Licensed caregivers perform thorough criminal background checks on all of their employees and are also bonded and insured for your protection. 

Fabrication of memories is another warning sign of dementia

During the early stages, people with dementia are aware of their memory lapses, which can be extremely embarrassing for them. As a result, they will often feign remembering or will even fabricate memories or stories to appear as if they are on top of it. 

Schedule A Free Assessment Today

Have you noticed the warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s in your spouse or family member? Contact HomeAide Home Care to schedule a free assessment. We will listen to your story and are happy to provide no-obligation tips on how to move forward with a comprehensive memory care plan. 

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