Early Signifiers You Have Dementia, Say Experts
Dementia is a disorder that affects an estimated 5 million Americans and is defined as "not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities." Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can vary person to person, but there are clear signs that indicate someone has dementia. Read the six signs and other information about dementia experts told Eat This, Not That! Health—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
Peter Ross, CEO of Senior Helpers and President of the Home Care Association of America's board of directors explains, "Seniors with dementia generally find it difficult to complete ordinary daily tasks which might have previously been easy. This might mean having trouble driving to a familiar location, paying their credit card bills, or remembering how to play a game they once enjoyed. While simple forgetfulness is normal with age, the forgetting of an often-practiced routine can be cause for concern."
Confusion with Time or Place
Ross says, "Keeping track of dates, times, and even seasons can be difficult for people with dementia. Unless something is happening immediately they can have trouble understanding it. Forgetting where they are—especially if it's somewhere they visit often, like the supermarket—or how they got there, can be particularly worrisome."
Problems with Words, Either Speaking or Writing
"Having trouble following or participating in a conversation can be a sign of dementia. Your loved one may stop in the middle of a sentence without knowing how to continue, constantly repeat themselves, or struggle with vocabulary," Ross states.
Constantly Misplacing Things
Ross says, "People with dementia often misplace things or put objects in places they have never put them before. Difficulty retracing their steps, or accusing others of stealing, is also a sign that something isn't quite right."
Withdrawal from Social Activities
According to Ross, "While it's normal for a senior to feel tired at some social gatherings, someone with dementia will often remove themselves from social activities completely. They might have difficulty remembering how to complete a favorite hobby."
"People with dementia can often experience severe mood changes, becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious," says Ross. "They might have difficulty handling minor disruptions to their routine and struggle to stabilize their emotions in places where they are out of their comfort zone."
How Are These Signs Different From Normal Aging?
Dr. Brian Wu, director of psychiatry at the behavioral healthcare team of Executive Mental Health, specialized in caring for the elderly, explains, "Forgetting keys every so often as you did a few years ago is not a concern, but forgetting your wallet inside the house consistently is new and something you've never done before? Definitely something to keep an eye on as they could mean that there are potential changes that are happening in the brain that may be long-term and showing underlying effects that may last and be an early marker for dementia."
When is it Time to Seek Medical Attention?
Dr. Wu says, "There are objective tests that can further help test these issues out when you see your doctor. As a psychiatrist, it's always important to start early in having a discussion. Sometimes nothing is wrong but having a good baseline is better than waiting too long."
What Can be Done to Help Slow Down the Process of Dementia?
"The best advice to enact today would be to maintain a healthy lifestyle as much as possible which includes sleeping enough, eating well, and ensuring enough activity—both physical and social activity," according to Dr. Wu. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.