Seniors and Age-Related Memory Loss II – 6 Early Warning Signs of Dementia
Last week I shared several causes of memory loss and today intend to share some early warning signs of dementia. Simply defined, dementia is “a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long-term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that is severe enough to affect a person’s daily functioning.” There is a wide gulf between momentary forgetfulness and behavioral changes that threaten one’s ability to function, especially for seniors. My goal here is not to delve into all the different types of dementia, that would take hours of research and even more time to share. My goal today is to simply share a few warning signs that could point to a problem for you, a client or a loved one.
- Confusion about time or place – Writing for Healthline.com, Valencia Higuera and Mary Ellen Ellis, reported that “when memory, thinking, or judgment lapses, confusion may arise as they can no longer remember faces, find the right words, or interact with people normally.”
- Difficulty with problem-solving – Reviewed by Seunggu Han, MD, a Medical News Today report states, “A person with dementia may find it difficult to follow a plan, such as a recipe when cooking, or directions when driving. Problem-solving may also get more challenging, such as when adding up numbers to paying bills.”
- Problems Speaking or writing – Homeadvisor.com reports that someone with this affliction may stop in mid-sentence or repeat themselves more than once. Furthermore, if writing a note or other work, they may not be able to finish their written thoughts.
- Misplacing items – We all misplace items, but a person showing signs of dementia, reports Dementia Australia, will “put things in inappropriate places.”
- Problems processing visual information – Katherine L. Possin, writing for the National Health Institute (NHI), takes an in-depth look at the complexity of what is involved for us to differentiate, navigate, store information and interpret all the data we process visually and the results when that is interrupted by disease.
- Changes in behavior – A recent article from the Weill Institute for Neurosciences at UCSF reported, “In dementia, it is usually because the person is losing neurons (cells) in parts of the brain. The behavior changes you see often depend on which part of the brain is losing cells … Dementia also alters how a person responds to their environment.”
Dementia is not easy to diagnose. I have shared only a few of the classic and most visible signs. There are many more. You might think it journalistic abuse for me to haphazardly and carelessly jump from memory loss straight into dementia, but my intent was to share the progression of the disease and, regarding causes and warning signs, what to be on the lookout for.
I am no longer naïve enough to believe that dementia is by itself a disease. By definition, it covers a whole host of other diseases including, Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. There are other diseases like Huntington’s and Parkinson’s that develop symptoms of dementia. Furthermore, lifestyle choices like excessive drinking and smoking can affect memory and lead to a more permanent type of dementia. Some problems are often short-term, like those caused by medications, and are easily remedied.
My hope over the last two weeks is that I have shown just how complex the issues of memory loss and dementia are and how independence is affected. There are no easy answers, but awareness is key. If you suspect that you, a client or loved one is beginning to show signs of memory loss or dementia, don’t waste time contacting a health expert in your area for a proper diagnosis. You can also call the dementia hotline at 866-901-4858.