Spotting Early Signs of DementiaApr 05, 2023
Dementia is used to define a condition that affects a person’s ability to remember, process information, speak and think rationally. There are different types of dementia and only a medical specialist will be able to diagnose the exact nature and specifics of the condition. However, the early signs of the ailment are common for all forms and knowing what they are will enable those with loved ones who may be suffering from the condition to get them the medical help they need to alleviate the problem as much as possible.
The Warning Signs
- Short-term memory loss is among the most common signs. The changes are usually subtle and slow to develop. A person in the initial stages of dementia may be able to recall events from long ago but not remember what they had for their last meal. Other signs include:
- Forgetting where they left their belongings
- Forgetting why they entered a room or are performing a task
- Not remembering what they need to do on a given day
- Communication is a problem for those with dementia. Expressing thoughts, ideas and feelings may be difficult because the person is unable to find the right words to express him/herself. The person may also begin a sentence and then stop because he forgot what he wanted to convey. The problem is apparent in both verbal and written communication, but verbal signs are usually more noticeable. Having a conversation with dementia patients can be challenging for others because of the long time they may need to express themselves.
- Language may be another problem. Those who speak more than one language may start combining words from different languages while communicating. While in India the use of words from different languages is common, if the combination of words does not make sense, it may be a sign of dementia.
- A person with dementia is often prone to sudden mood swings. These abrupt changes are not noticed by the patient but are clear to others. For example, a sudden descent into a state of depression, for no obvious reason, is a common sign. Being fearful or in a state of ongoing anxiety is another sign. A patient will feel insecure because of the loss of memory and any change in the daily routine may cause them to become very upset.
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- Personality changes are often seen in those with dementia. For example, a person who was previously shy or reserved may become very sociable or outgoing. The changes, back and forth, may be very abrupt and have no obvious reason behind them.
- Apathy or listlessness is another early sign. When dementia sets in, a person may lose interest in those activities that he used to enjoy or was involved in. This applies to both work and recreation and enjoyment.
- Confusion is common among those with dementia. A person in the early stage of this condition may have trouble remembering faces, recalling names, knowing what day it is or recalling where he is.
- Completing common tasks may be difficult. The signs are usually first visible with more complex but routine jobs like monitoring a bank account, keeping track of expenses, recalling or even following a recipe that is frequently used or playing a game with specific rules to be followed. From here, the condition will often get worse and result in the inability to perform even simple tasks like washing or having a bath.
- Learning new things or following new routines is difficult for a person with dementia. This can result in making mistakes in even the simplest of tasks.
- Difficulty in following storylines is another frequent early sign. A person may have difficulty following a conversation or may be unable to follow the story of a TV show.
- Repetition is another sign of dementia. A person may repeat simple everyday actions like shaving or bathing because he forgets that he has already done it. Repetition may also take the form of an obsessive collection of large numbers of items for which they have no need or interest. Frequent repetition of the same questions or statements during a conversation is also common.
- People with dementia often lose their sense of direction and spatial orientation. In other words, they have difficulty recognizing once familiar landmarks, places, buildings and so on and cannot remember the way to places they have been to regularly like the market or a friend’s house.
- Change is difficult and frightening for those with dementia. Any new situation, place or person may be the cause of confusion or fear because of the inability to accept or adapt to the new circumstance. A person may fight off anything new because of the fear of not being able to deal with it and so insist on what is familiar, even if that too is confusing.
- A person with dementia suffers from a loss of cognitive ability. In other words, the person may not able to exercise rational and logical judgment and may become a danger to themselves or others. The person may forget to check for traffic before crossing a road. Or they may go out in summer clothes in very cold weather. A common offshoot of this is that the person may lose financial judgment and begin to give away money needlessly.
- The inability to follow conversations or understand what is being discussed can lead to a person withdrawing from social activities and situations. The fear of not being able to understand what is being said and done by others can lead to an antisocial attitude and a desire to be left alone all the time.
Also Read: Understanding Autism
It is important to know that while these symptoms may indicate the onset of one of several forms of dementia, they could also have other causes. If a person is suspected by friends, family and loved ones to be showing signs of dementia, it is dangerous to jump to conclusions. The correct course of action will be to have the person examined by a neurologist at a hospital with a modern state-of-the-art neurology department. This is where the latest medical technology and procedures will be available to accurately diagnose the condition and if dementia is present, create a treatment plan that will allow the patient to have the best quality of life that is possible.
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