The Alzheimer’s Association states “Dementia is a general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by physical changes in the brain.”
Dementia is not a specific disease, but rather a descriptive word used for a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s, accounting for 60 – 80% of all dementia cases. Other forms include:
- Vascular Dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Mixed Dementia
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Frontotemporal Dementia
- Huntington’s Disease
Georgetown Home Care is a leader and specialist in our field when it comes to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Our president, John Bradshaw, is a Certified Dementia Practitioner who provides continuing education presentations to many hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and resources centers in our area.
In addition, during new hire training for our caregivers, we provide a very in-depth look at what it means to care for a dementia patient as well as the most effective techniques to do so.
While there is no cure for any form of this condition, there are many ways to help those affected by the disease, which is our specialty.
Early Detection of Dementia
Early detection of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other forms of age-related, cognitive decline has a positive impact on the individual requiring memory care as well as his/her spouse, family, friends, and caregivers.
The more we learn about dementia, the more we realize diet, exercise, sleep and lifestyle habits have a significant impact on the speed at which the condition progresses.
Thus, the sooner yourself or a loved one receives an accurate diagnosis, the sooner you can take critical steps to create a memory-friendly lifestyle, and the sooner you can begin to create a care plan that accommodates both short and long-term needs.
Symptoms of Early Dementia
Almost everyone experiences minor, age-related memory loss. The difference between “normal” symptoms and those listed below is frequency. Normal, “once in a while” glitches will become regular occurrences when dementia is the cause.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of dementia in its earliest stages:
Forgetfulness that impacts daily life
One of the first, noticeable signs of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia is the inability to remember dates, appointments, names or even driving directions. These are the things that impact daily life.
You may notice a greater dependence on digital reminders, spouse and/or family members to take care of things that were handled independently in the past.
If left unchecked, a person with dementia may find themselves standing in their neighborhood grocery store, scared and unsure of where they are or how to get home. They may also begin to withdraw from social engagements, friends, and/or outings they used to enjoy.
Difficulty planning or problem-solving
Prior to the digital age, one of the first symptoms of dementia was the inability to balance a checkbook. In the era of online banking, other signs include things like having trouble creating a travel itinerary or sticking to a recipe.
For those with early- to mid-stages of dementia, planning and problem-solving can feel (and look) like one is trying to braid a rope that continually unravels as soon as you’ve made progress.
Being challenged by routine daily tasks
Those with dementia will soon struggle with routine daily tasks. This could include difficulties adhering to the daily schedule at work, inability to follow a favorite card game or not remembering which items have already been completed on the “to-do” list.
Increasing confusion with dates and times
Forgetting which day of the week it is can be a funny joke, chalked up to retirement. In fact, those with Alzheimer’s and dementia progressively struggle with keeping track of dates, days of the week, time of day, etc.
Loss of judgment and reasoning skills
This is one of the reasons those with dementia become prime targets for scammers and criminals who prey on the elderly. Their loss of reasoning and judgment makes them more likely to give away, or spend, large sums of money.
Symptoms of Middle to Late Stages of Dementia
As memory loss progresses, the signs will be impossible to ignore. This includes symptoms such as:
- Neglecting personal hygiene. Forgetting to dress, launder clothes, bathe, clean the home, etc.
- Notable weight-loss. An inability to prepare food or run errands results in missed meals and malnutrition.
- Delusions and hallucinations. Those with later-stage dementia can seem as if they’re living in a different world, often one filled with delusions and hallucinations.
- Uncharacteristic paranoia, anger and/or aggression. It can be shocking when the sweet, kind and loving person you’ve known for so long becomes withdrawn, sullen, angry and potentially even aggressive or violent.
Quick Behavioral Changes Checklist
Here is a quick checklist you can run-through to see if daily observations and/or your gut instincts are on the right track. If you check off one or more of the following, it’s worth scheduling an appointment with a physician:
- Changes in ability to focus
- Changes in the level of alertness
- Emotional or physical agitation
- Changes in mood
- Suspicion of others
- Withdrawal from others
- Groaning or calling out
- Making faces (struggling, grimacing)
- Striking out or other signs of distress
Early Dementia Action & Detection Makes a Difference
As we mentioned above, the sooner treatment and memory-friendly lifestyle changes take place, the better off things are for everyone.
Making an appointment with the individual’s healthcare provider is a critical first-step to evaluate whether or not the symptoms or signs are related to dementia or to other potential causes such as an undiagnosed medical condition or disease, medication reactions, or environmental changes.
Put a Dementia Care Plan in Place
Once a diagnosis is given, a care plan should be put into place. This includes:
- Holding a family care planning meeting to explain the diagnosis and what dementia progression looks like, establishing plans for immediate and long-term care, financing, etc.
- Making diet and lifestyle changes known to slow down memory loss.
Dementia Care Experts
At Georgetown Home Care, we are a resource to anyone struggling with memory loss. It is our goal to help you and your loved one understand the signs and symptoms of dementia, as well as learn memory care strategies and coping mechanisms so you can continue living the highest quality of life possible.
Check out a few of our blog posts on the subject.