As your parents and elderly loved ones age, knowing the signs and symptoms of dementia is crucial to helping you recognize the difference between the normal effects of aging and the effects of a horrible and debilitating disease.
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a person experiencing decreased intellectual function that leads to the loss of their ability to function normally. While some of the symptoms of this condition can be mistaken as those caused by normal aging, you will find that the difference in most cases is that dementia symptoms progress much more rapidly and are infinitely more debilitating.
Learn the Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
If you are entrusted as the primary caregiver for an elderly or aging loved one, knowing about various dementia symptoms and the problems they create will make a huge difference. Early detection allows you to find treatment for them sooner rather than later and early treatment can postpone symptoms.
One of the most telltale signs and symptoms of dementia is that a person may be suffering from short term memory loss. Commonly, during the first stages of the disease, the patient may begin to frequently lose track of what they are doing, misplace personal items or seem to forget details such as people’s names, their address, etc. While in the beginning, this forgetfulness will come and go, the dementia will eventually advance to the point that the patient will have a hard time recalling and utilizing simple mental skills that they have used all their lives.
Short term memory loss will progress into more severe memory loss and you may soon see that your loved one seems to lose their grip on reality from time to time. They may not recognize familiar surroundings or people, or they may think they are in a different time or place, which can be problematic and make care difficult.
A secondary side effect to the memory loss, another one of the signs and symptoms of dementia, is the inability to learn new information. As dementia progresses, patients find it harder and harder, to retain newly acquired information such as people’s names or current events. Due to the fact that short term memory loss is such an issue, you should do your best not to expect your loved one to remember new people they have recently met or to take the meds their doctor prescribed them on their last visit without someone giving the medicine to them.
Problem Solving, Communicating and Organizing
Aside from memory loss, the signs and symptoms of dementia often also affect a person’s ability to use reason and intelligence in order to solve simple problems, communicate with others or to organize ideas, items or events in a way that makes sense. This disease effects the brain in such a way that it decreases a person’s ability to think logically and use simple reasoning skills.
Communication can also be a problem in patients with advanced dementia as they may have issues forming cohesive thoughts and putting them into words. It is almost like a normal person having a thought and trying to communicate it in a foreign language. You know what you mean and what you want to say but your brain fails to provide you the correct words to attach to your thoughts, so that others can understand you.
Personality Changes, Paranoia, Agitation and Inappropriate Behavior
When a person is suffering from the signs and symptoms of dementia, sometimes your loved one is lucid and cognizant of their surroundings. Many patients often realize that something is wrong with their body; however, they will likely not understand that they have dementia, even if you have tried to explain it to them. The combination of symptoms from memory loss to a loss of communication ability can cause severe mood swings and agitation, even during times when the patient is lucid. You may also find that your loved one is more likely to act out in odd ways or display inappropriate behaviors that they would not otherwise engage in.
Another one of the difficult signs and symptoms of dementia is paranoia. While not experienced by all patients, paranoia is often the result of a person who slips temporarily into a false state of reality where they may not know where they are, or who they or you are. Not being able to recognize the people and things around them may scare them and they may see you as a threat or think that someone is going to harm them.
If you begin recognizing signs and symptoms of dementia in your elderly parents or loved ones, it is imperative that you have them see their doctor as soon as possible. While no cure for the disease is available yet, innovations in medicines and therapies can help slow down the progression of the disease and help make the lives of both the patient and the caregiver just a bit easier.