Dementia refers to a health condition that affects the brain wherein most of its cognitive function gets impaired, such as remembering, thinking, and reasoning. It is more commonly seen in older adults aged 65 and over, requiring them to seek memory care services to improve their health.
However, this does not mean that all seniors will eventually develop it. Many physically and socially active elderlies get to live up to their 90s without any cognitive problems. Some may have trouble remembering things, but sometimes, that’s just their age talking.
As a concerned family member or caregiver, here’s how you can detect dementia in your senior loved one.
7 Early Warning Signs of Dementia
Dementia affects people differently. Some seniors may experience very vague and subtle symptoms during its early stages, while others can already develop behavioral and attitude changes at this phase.
Keep in mind that dementia does not have one specific symptom; it has many. A person with dementia often experiences at least two or three impairments that happen simultaneously, interfering with everyday life. This includes the following:
- Trouble with language and communication
- Problems with focus
- Difficulty in reasoning
It is essential to learn the warning signs of dementia so you can detect it early, get the proper help, and create a treatment plan for your senior loved one or patient. So, here are seven common symptoms that usually mean an older adult has dementia.
1. Short-Term Memory Loss
One universal symptom of the disease that affects almost all dementia patients is memory problems or forgetfulness. But just because your parent or grandparent may constantly forget or misplace their keys do not mean that they have the disease.
Short-term memory loss becomes a sign of dementia when it disrupts your loved one’s daily life. This includes forgetting recently learned information and not remembering it later or forgetting important events like family members’ birthdays.
Memory problems become evident in a person with dementia because the part of the brain responsible for storing memories gets damaged.
So, if your loved one often forgets things without remembering them at all, then it’s time to consult a GP and get ready to seek memory care services.
2. Trouble in Completing Everyday Tasks
Normally, older adults do not have any problems doing their everyday tasks, especially those they had been doing for years.
At first, elderlies with early dementia encounter troubles in doing complex stuff, like managing their checkbook. Then as the disease progresses, you will start to notice they have difficulty in doing once familiar tasks, such as:
- Preparing their specialty meal.
- Finding their favorite grocery store or cafe.
- Organizing a grocery list.
- Remembering the rules of their favorite game.
Moreover, patients with dementia have trouble learning new tasks or following a routine. They may also repeat a task that they had already done, thinking they have yet to finish it.
3. Confusion or Disorientation
As a person’s memory gets impaired, they are more likely to get confused or disoriented. For instance, they can suddenly lose track of time, dates, or their current location. Also, they can sometimes forget how they got to a particular place. Another example is thinking that they are living in a specific time in their past life.
4. Speech Difficulty
Dementia affects a person’s ability to remember stuff like names, certain words, or a part of a conversation. That’s why they often have trouble following a conversation or have a delayed response in answering a question.
Furthermore, the disease also impairs the ability to process recently learned information. Thus, making it difficult for a person with dementia to understand what had been said and respond to it.
Other struggles related to speech can include:
- Trouble expressing themselves or forming a coherent sentence.
- Impaired speech, vocabulary, and comprehension.
- Using the wrong term for a specific object, location, or person.
- Cannot follow a storyline.
- Asking questions repeatedly.
Additionally, reading and writing can become a more challenging task than usual for seniors with undiagnosed dementia.
5. Withdrawal from Social Activities
As a result of speech and memory problems, a person with dementia may socially withdraw from friends, hobbies, and other social interactions. They might stop going out with friends or doing something fun with the family.
This lack of engagement can also be due to the damages done to the brain’s amygdala, which is responsible for a person’s “social behavior.” As the disease progresses, this withdrawn state may also lead to apathy or being emotionally flat. You can see this as:
- Being unmotivated to do their hobbies.
- Decreased or no initiative to be social.
- Lack of interest in everything.
If this apathetic behavior continues with other common dementia symptoms mentioned above, then it’s time to consider seeking the best memory care services.
6. Mood and Personality Changes
Normally, seniors may become moody and irritable because of personal frustration, exasperation, or a reaction to pain.
But when a senior has constant mood swings and acts very different from their “usual self,” it may be a sign of dementia. Some moods and personality changes they might exhibit include:
- Anger and frustration, especially when out of their comfort zone.
- Fear and anxiety, especially when there’s a sudden noise or change in their environment.
Remember that dementia is not the only disease that causes a person to experience sudden mood and personality changes. So, detailed observation and connection with other symptoms are vital.
7. Poor Judgment
All people make bad decisions every once in a while. However, inappropriate actions and choices become questionable when it starts to have a pattern.
Seniors with dementia usually have trouble processing certain information, making it challenging for them to make sound decisions. Some situational examples include:
- Managing finances
- Not recognizing the dangers in particular situations, like when driving or crossing a road.
- Personal hygiene, grooming, and dressing
These lapses in judgment may be simple at first, but they can get more pronounced and can endanger your loved one. So, when these symptoms appear, don’t hesitate to reach out to your loved one’s doctor and start discussing suitable memory care services.