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Sure Signs You May Already Have Dementia

Watch for these telltale symptoms.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Knowing the Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) can help you identify it in someone—including yourself. "These are often the ones that are distressing both to persons with dementia and especially with their family members," said Dr. Art Walaszek, Geriatric Psychiatrist, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, on the University of Madison-Wisconsin's podcast from the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. Read on for BPSD symptoms you need to know—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You May Have Hallucinations


"Psychosis has two main categories are hallucinations, so that seeing or hearing things that aren't there—more commonly seeing than hearing. Sometimes it can be a clue in terms of what the type of dementia is, or certain types of dementia are more likely to have hallucinations and specifically Lewy body disease related to Parkinson's disease—those folks are more likely to have visual hallucinations, often very vivid, very detailed. The person can describe exactly what they're seeing. Often not distressing, but sometimes potentially can, can be quite frightening and distressing. So those are hallucinations seeing or hearing things that aren't otherwise there," said Dr. Walaszek.


You May Thing People are Stealing From You

Elderly couple arguing.

"And then there are delusions. So that's believing something, despite there being plenty of evidence that that is not true. So the most common things there in Alzheimer's disease are believing that someone is stealing from you. And often the way you get to that is the person with Alzheimer's disease or dementia due to Alzheimer's disease has forgotten where they put something. And for some reason, their brain says, oh, someone must have stolen it from me rather than I'm in this place to it. So that's the most common," said Dr. Walaszek.

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You May Not Recognize Your Own Home

Female neighbor giving senior woman a lift In car.

"After that comes the belief that you're not in your own home anymore. And that may be that you just, you don't recognize it. So five years ago, you moved from home to a condo or from your home to a senior living community. And now you're having memory problems dating back 10 years. And so you've forgotten that in that intervening span of 10 years, you've actually moved. And so this can come across, it can sound very paranoid. Like, you know, you moved me, why am I not in my own home anymore?" said Dr. Walaszek.

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You May Think Someone is Cheating On You

Mature couple sitting on sofa together and looking to opposite sides.

"Particularly distressing to caregivers can be delusions of infidelity where a person believes that their loved one is having, having an affair on them. And what's tough about delusions is you can try to convince someone until you're blue in the face, and that's the nature of a delusion. It doesn't change even with presentation of facts, to the contrary or evidence that isn't the case. Other delusions include things like, my pills are being tampered with, my food is being poisoned. People are watching me, people are trying to break into the house. They're trying to kill me, et cetera, et cetera. So it can be very, very distressing to patients and certainly to caregivers too, especially when accusations start flying around theft or infidelity or things like that. Now, every once in a while a caregiver is stealing or doing these things. And so that can be a little tricky to sort out sometimes, but most of the time it's in fact, a delusion," said Dr. Walaszek.

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When Do These Symptoms Strike, and Why?

Doctor doing an eye exam on his patient.

You may experience these symptoms "typically later, although something like dementia with Lewy bodies or Lewy body disease, they can show up fairly early on," said Dr. Walaszek. "They can be among the initial presenting symptoms of the dementia. It's typically more moderate or severe stages of dementia where we usually see hallucinations and delusions." One reason this is happening may be "the unmet needs model. And so basically the person has a problem of some sort they're in pain or they're constipated, or they're hungry or they're bored or they're lonely. And because of their dementia, their usual skills that they would have to express those things and get help, like, you know, go take a Tylenol, for example, if you're in pain or, you know, talk to your doctor about constipation or whatever, those usual tools are not available to them any longer because of their cognitive impairment. And so it instead comes out in this other way that, you know, they're trying as hard as they can to let you know what's going on, but it's coming out as aggression or agitation or depression or anxiety or one of these other BPSD." If you or anyone you know experiences these, contact a medical professional. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

For more on this terrible disease, listen to the University of Madison-Wisconsin's podcast from the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek