Dementia is a collection of symptoms that can occur due to a variety of diseases. They include impairments in thought, communication, and memory. Currently, there is no cure for the symptoms or the diseases that cause them, and the best way to combat it is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and hopefully prevent it. For care providers and family members of the elderly, it is important to be aware of the early signs of dementia.
A common sign of dementia is memory loss. Although forgetting the occasional appointment or meeting is common for anyone, even the young, someone with dementia will forget these things more often than they remember them, or doesn’t remember them at all when reminded.
Another common symptom is difficulty with small tasks. The average person may forget to brush their teeth when busy, but with dementia, they will forget entirely how to brush their teeth. Be sure to look for difficulty or forgetfulness with seemingly easy tasks.
Language problems are another sign. While any of us will, from time to time, forget the correct word to say and stumble through a sentence, people with dementia will craft sentences that make no sense at all. This is sometimes referred to as a “word salad”, and oftentimes they will have difficulty understanding the language of others.
People with dementia will frequently experience disorientation as well. While forgetting where we are and spacing out occasionally is normal, with dementia this will happen constantly, and they may even experience difficulty finding a place they should know well, or they might find themselves acting as though they are living in a past part of their life.
Another sign that someone is experiencing dementia is poor judgment. The occasional thing like forgetting a hat or sunscreen on a sunny day is no major issue, but people with dementia will frequently do things like go outside in frigid weather in nothing but a t-shirt, or may put on a big heavy coat to go outside into the summer weather.
While higher mathematics are beyond the reach of many of us, with dementia someone may entirely forget what numbers are, or have difficulty with even the most basic addition or subtraction equations. They may even forget details like how old they are or what year they were born.
The early stages of dementia may bring poor estimation skills. They may claim that it will only take them a few minutes to get ready when they haven’t even gotten out of bed. For someone with dementia, the five minutes they believe it will take will only feel like five minutes to them, when in reality it takes much longer.
We all lost things at one time or another. Who among us hasn’t misplaced their keys or sunglasses once or twice. With dementia, they may not even know what keys are, or recall what their keys looked like.
Another common dementia trait is severe personality changes. People with dementia can have rapid mood swings that make them appear suspicious, confused, agitated, or withdrawn seemingly at random.