Make sure dementia will not take you by surprise by knowing all the signs!
In today’s world, dementia is one of the most common diagnoses among the elderly population in our country.
What’s worse, many people are secretly suffering from one form or another and don’t even realize it, which means they don’t receive the treatment they need.
Dementia isn’t a disease per se, but rather a group of diseases that mainly affect mental functions along with the nervous system. Dementia diseases are progressive, which means they get worse over time.
However, detecting dementia early and receiving proper treatment can help anyone live a better, longer, and healthier life overall.
The main types of dementia are:
- Alzheimer’s disease (the most common type, which occurs in up to 80% of all cases)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Vascular dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Mixed dementia
Although each type of dementia has its own causes and particularity, there are some symptoms they all have in common.
Today, experts will help us find out everything about those symptoms and when it’s time to see a doctor. Ready?
Changes in short-term memory
This is one of the most subtle signs of dementia, but also one of the most common. Basically, it means that a person can remember events from decades ago, but they can’t remember what they’ve just had for lunch. Another example is starting an action, such as opening a door but without remembering what they intended to do.
Of course, such events happen to all of us especially if we live a busy lifestyle or we’re extremely tired. However, if they start happening often or even daily, it’s probably time to see a doctor.
Difficulty in dialogues
Language is by far the most complex skill we acquire during our lifetime. In today’s world, it’s also a vital skill we need to thrive and live our lives as usual.
When dementia occurs, patients suddenly start having a hard time finding the right words to express their thoughts and emotions. These people may begin a story and barely be able to finish it, or they might interrupt themselves constantly as they’re at a loss of words.
Much like short-term memory, this difficulty in speech can happen to all of us at some point; in fact, some people are talking that way forever and they’re perfectly healthy individuals. If you’re suddenly starting to notice this particularity, though, you should schedule a check-up to make sure everything’s alright.
If you’re a person suffering from dementia, it can be very difficult to acknowledge subtle changes – and mood habits make no exception. Every day, we all go from happy to angry, frustrated, or impatient depending on the different events that impact us. However, if you or a loved one are suddenly going from one emotional state to another for no apparent cause, it’s time to ring the alarm.
Furthermore, dementia doesn’t just affect your mood. This condition can also impact a person’s personality; for example, a person that’s typically an introvert may suddenly become very sociable and outgoing. This mainly happens because the judgment (and therefore the character) is affected.
Difficulty in routine tasks
Many people with dementia have a harder time expressing their thoughts verbally. However, their ability to start and complete simple tasks they’re used to can also be impacted. The earliest sign in such cases regards complex tasks such as playing a game with many rules or having to complete a task with multiple steps included.
As the disease progresses, the patient is gradually having a harder time completing easier tasks. Unfortunately, dementia also affects a person’s ability to learn new skills, adapt to new games, or include new habits in their routine.
When you suddenly can’t remember why you entered the room and you can’t explain that to your spouse either, confusion definitely sets in. People with dementia may have a difficult time remembering other people, telling stories thoroughly, completing tasks, or adapting to routine changes. And because many of them don’t understand why any of this is happening, or when it happened, they can become confused.
Confusion leads to a vicious circle since it can trigger a range of negative emotions such as frustration, anger, or even paranoia. This cluster of symptoms is almost a clear sign that you should visit a doctor as soon as possible.
Note that we’re not talking about mood changes here, as this is a different symptom. Sometimes, people with early dementia can suddenly lose interest in everything they used to enjoy doing. From hobbies to spending quality time with their loved ones, every activity that used to be part of their routine or relaxation time just doesn’t arouse any positive emotions.
This symptom immediately affects their social relationships, so other people will probably notice it much quicker than the actual patient. If you notice this sign in a loved one, you should treat the problem seriously and even ask for help on their behalf if you think it’s necessary.
Affected sense of orientation
Direction and spatial orientation are two skills we acquire during the very first years of our lives. Unfortunately, though, dementia can affect these functions as well. It usually translates into a sudden inability of recognizing familiar places and landmarks or having a hard time getting to a certain location (such as going home). This early symptom can also affect the person’s ability to follow directions to a new place or read a map.
ATTENTION! Since people with dementia can lack their sense of orientation, leaving them alone can become dangerous for their physical and mental health. If you suspect anyone around you is secretly dealing with this illness, please reach out and seek help for them.
We’ve already discussed how people with early dementia can have a hard time adapting to changes in their routines. In fact, their subconscious becomes so attached to the routine they do know that they may start doing certain things repeatedly. Of course, short-term memory loss also plays a major role here since patients may simply not remember that they’ve already completed a certain task before.
Repetition can be observed in many ways. Some people may start showering multiple times a day because they don’t know they’ve already done so. Others, on the other hand, may start collecting certain things to the point it looks like an obsession. Another subtle indicator is when the person starts asking the same question multiple times during a conversation.
And since we’re talking about conversations…
Difficulty understanding storylines
One of the earliest signs of dementia is a person’s inability of finding the right words to express their thoughts and emotions. Additionally, some people may also struggle to understand a storyline or an idea that’s being explained to them. That can either happen because they can’t understand the meaning of a word anymore or they just can’t pay attention long enough to follow through.
Sadly, this symptom makes it even harder for people with dementia to watch television programs or attend social gatherings – another factor that can affect their mood negatively.
Inability to adapt to changes
The most important thing we all have to acknowledge when it comes to dementia is this: It is scary. A person that starts suffering from any form of dementia can have major difficulties understanding what’s happening to them. All these changes in their mindset, personality, memory, and skills make them cling to a routine as they try to find balance and normality in their lives again.
Experiencing all these symptoms can also make them fear new experiences or tasks. What if they go grocery shopping and can’t figure out how to get back home? What if they meet an old friend and just can’t talk to them properly? This is one of the main reasons why we have to be extremely supportive and patient if we notice any of these symptoms – regardless if they’re already been diagnosed or not.
Can we prevent dementia?
Now we know how to spot dementia and the early signs that help us reach out and seek professional guidance. But since prevention is always easier than treatment, there’s nothing left but to wonder: can we prevent this difficult diagnosis?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent dementia entirely; however, there’s plenty we can still do to reduce our risk for this category of illness. Most of the recommendations are simple, affordable, and even fun, so let’s check them out:
- Train your mind by playing memory games, strategy games, puzzles, chess, or any other game you and your loved ones are into!
- Read at least a few pages of whatever lecture you enjoy the most; whether it’s newspapers or SF novels, this is a great exercise for your brain.
- Stay active by doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity every single day; this can include walking, jogging, cycling, hiking, or anything you enjoy doing most.
Additionally, you can also adapt your diet as specialists found there are certain nutrients and foods that boost your brain health and immune system.
Aside from avoiding (or stopping) any unhealthy habits such as alcohol consumption or smoking, the following foods can reduce your risk of dementia:
- Whole grains
- Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish like salmon or nuts)
Specialists at Mayo Clinic have found that vitamin D is particularly beneficial in reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s, as well as other types of dementia, so there is hope!
You may not exhibit any signs of dementia. However, you may still be worried about your health and want to boost your immune system. Make sure you include these fruits and vegetables that are known to kill and fight off bacteria and viruses in your diet!