As someone with elderly loved ones, you are used to seeing friends, parents, or other relatives go through changes as they age. Although everyone changes as they get older, you might have difficulty deciding—are these changes a normal part of the aging process, or do they indicate the onset of dementia? While there is some crossover, it is important to understand the early signs of Dementia so that you can recognize them when they are manifested in your loved ones. The following six signs, which differ from typical aging, can be indicative of early dementia:
Forgetting something now and then is normal, especially as you grow older. Early dementia, on the other hand, causes memory troubles that persistently affect daily life. Patients may repeatedly request the same details, quickly forget new information or be unable to retrace their steps to remember where they put an item. In fact, a 2013 study found that the patients themselves may be able to detect this decline in memory capability much sooner than cognitive tests can. Don’t dismiss memory loos for a sign of old age, since it can be a sign of developing dementia.
Loss of Words
Communication can become tricky for people with dementia. They may forget common words, use words in the wrong context or get lost mid-conversation. It can become harder to ascertain the meaning of your loved one’s sentences, and you may notice that he or she repeats things. This sign can be fairly easy to detect, especially if your loved one has never previously struggled with communication or speaking.
A 2006 study indicated that the physical signs of dementia may appear before the cognitive ones. Study participants who demonstrated physical decline, such as loss of balance or slowed mobility, were more likely to develop dementia than those who maintained a high level of physical function. With an elderly individual, things like balance and strength will naturally decline as they age. However, if there is a noticeable change in these functions, it is best to seek out the opinion of a medical professional.
Neglect of Personal Care
If your loved one has been forgetting to bathe, take medications or perform other routine personal care tasks, this may indicate the onset of dementia. Some forms of dementia affect motivation, resulting in a change in appearance or grooming habits, such as dirty fingernails, unkempt hair or body odor. Keep in mind that poor hygiene can also result from depression, which is common among elderly patients, especially if their spouse has passed away.
Shift in Mood or Personality
A dementia-related personality change is more than just general crankiness related to being set in one’s ways. It involves an inability to control one’s mood and actions. Affected patients may become upset over minor issues or experience symptoms of depression. This can be hard to detect if you don’t spend a great deal of time with your loved one, however, if you notice any changes in mood be sure to monitor these changes and how frequently they happen if possible.
Inability to Plan and Follow Through
Dementia patients may lose the ability to complete what were once routine tasks. For example, Grandma used to be a superb cook, but lately she’s been having trouble seeing a recipe through to completion. Home life and job performance can be affected if your loved one is starting to develop Dementia, so that is something to pay attention to. Even if the task is simple, it might raise a red flag if your loved one can no longer complete a task that used to be easy for them.
Dementia is a challenging diagnosis, but early intervention can be the key to slowing its progression and learning to cope with the symptoms. Therefore, be vigilant about watching for these signs of early dementia in your loved ones. It can be tough to talk about Dementia—after all, you wouldn’t want to feel like people were observing you or diagnosing you. However, if you notice any of these signs in your loved ones, you might gently suggest that they visit their doctor. That way, if these really are just signs of old age, a medical professional can give helpful advice for adjustments and adaptations. Information for this article was provided by the professionals of ComforCare National who specialize in senior home care for patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.