Is it Dementia? What’s Normal, What’s Not.
During its onset, Dementia can easily be confused with normal memory loss that we all experience at times. For example, you head down to the basement for something, only to get there and forget what it was. That’s pretty common. So how is it you can determine if you are, in fact, experiencing the beginning of dementia? Let’s break it down to help explain.
What Exactly is Dementia?
Dementia is a generic term for any type of memory loss that is severe enough to hinder one’s daily life activities. Although Alzheimer’s – a generalized, progressive degeneration of the brain due to age – accounts for the vast majority of cases, there are many forms that you can read up on.
The Top 10 Signs to Watch For
Although there are different types of dementia, the signs to look for at the start of all of them are similar. And, since Alzheimer’s accounts for 60% to 80% of all cases, we’ll focus on that particular form while explaining the common signs to look for.
As we go through the signs, please do keep in mind that everyone experiences some of these symptoms some of the time. But when a person exhibits many of them more often, then it’s probably time to make an appointment to speak to a physician…if for no other reason than to have peace of mind.
Let take a look at what’s typical and what may be warning signs of Alzheimer’s—the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these are the top 10 signs to look for:
Although subtle, the inability to remember recently learned information may be an early sign. For example, if you forget an upcoming appointment, or the name of a person you just met, that’s pretty normal. But, forgetting what you had for breakfast, or needing help to remember regularly scheduled appointments may be a sign of dementia.
2. Trouble Concentrating
Some people with dementia may experience the inability to focus. They can find it hard to follow directions or solve problems. A normal challenge for anyone would be learning a new language or assembling something with complicated directions. Struggling to follow a familiar routine—such as the steps to prepare a favorite meal, or to keep track of regular bill paying, on the other hand, could indicate dementia.
3. Task Disorientation
Disorientation—as in an inability to complete normal, daily tasks. We’re not talking about trouble figuring out how to set the DVR or navigating computer software. Both of these are pretty normal for seniors. But not being able to recall the rules of a favorite card game, or forgetting how to drive to a frequent destination, may suggest dementia.
Confusion can happen for many reasons, since life is fast moving. However, when a person forgets what season it is, frequently loses track of what someone is talking about during a conversation, or is confused about lapses in time—these are behaviors exhibited more often with dementia.
5. Visual Impairment
Often, people with dementia will exhibit difficulty with vision and perception. They tend to struggle with spatial relationships, such as how far away an object is, as well as identifying colors and contrasts—both of which can have a large impact on one’s ability to drive. Although normal vision loss often occurs with age, the onset of these types of visual problems could be a sign of dementia.
6. Difficulty Communicating
Dementia may lead to a difficulty communicating thoughts. Yes, losing your train of thought once in a while happens to everyone; but when someone often begins to struggle articulating what they mean, or call things by the wrong name, that may be due to memory loss.
7. Misplacing Items
Everyone forgets where they left their keys from time to time, but if someone starts misplacing items in unusual places (like keys in the laundry basket) and is unable to retrace their steps, it could signal memory loss. Often, a person with Alzheimer’s also becomes anxious when they misplace things. They may assume the worst—that is stealing from them. That can be difficult for everyone.
8. Lack of Judgment
Clearly, we all make bad decisions sometimes, but those with dementia may be especially vulnerable to financial predators because of a lack of clear judgment. They may also begin to dress poorly or forget to bathe regularly enough. Their decision-making ability becomes hindered to the point that others notice.
9. Social Withdrawal
We all withdraw once and a while to recharge. This is completely normal. People with dementia, however, tend to disengage from social activities they used to enjoy, such as sports, hobbies and work projects. It’s usually due to trouble remembering the steps of a project or keeping up with directions.
10. Mood Swings
Let’s face it! We all get tired, hungry and cranky at times. Those challenged with Alzheimer’s tend to exhibit more noticeable swings in their mood. This is most likely because confusion easily lends itself to anxiety, suspiciousness, fearfulness, and even depression. This is especially true when people suffering from memory loss find themselves in in unfamiliar environments.
Next Steps: What to Do If You Suspect Dementia
Now that you’ve finished reading this, you most likely know if you suspect you or your loved one is showing signs of dementia. If so, what do you do? The best thing is to make an appointment with your doctor to know for sure.
Do make your appointment today…because studies show that it is possible to help slow the progress of memory loss. So, if dementia is the diagnosis, the earlier you start the better. Beyond that, an early start will help you better plan for the future medically, financially, socially, and emotionally.
You can also reach out to Beacon Hill at Eastgate for help. Contact us for guidance and assistance at any point in your journey.