It’s normal to have difficulty finding the right word or remembering where you put things as you age. However, persistent difficulties with memory, cognition, and ability to perform daily tasks may indicate something more serious.
Dementia is a broad term for severe loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that interfere with daily life caused by abnormal brain changes. It can be confusing for those experiencing it and their loved ones. You might even wonder if it’s time to move into a senior living community as dementia progresses.
Dementia often progresses from mild to severe, with the mildest stage having little effect on a person’s functioning and the most severe requiring the person to rely entirely on others for basic daily activities. Because of this, it’s important to understand the early warning signs to be able to manage your health needs as you age.
Early signs of dementia may include:
- Memory loss that affects daily life
- Personality changes
- Challenges with problem-solving
- Communication problems
- Trouble recognizing faces
- Trouble accepting change
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is not a single illness. Instead, it’s a broad term that refers to a set of symptoms. These symptoms can have an impact on a person’s memory as well as their ability to think, process information, and communicate with others.
More than 55 million people worldwide have dementia, with over 10 million new cases diagnosed each year.
- Memory Loss That Affects Daily Life
The most obvious symptom of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is a decline in the ability to remember, form new memories, or engage in more complex thought processes. People living with dementia may remember events from years ago, but not what they ate for breakfast.
They may also experience other changes in their short-term memory, such as:
- forgetting where they put things
- unable to recall why they entered a specific room
- forgetting what they were supposed to do that day
- Personality Changes
Dementia is not just memory loss or confusion; this disease ravages many parts of the brain, and as a result, family members or caregivers will notice behavioral or mood changes. Increased irritability, for example, is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Aggressive outbursts, erratic or overly sexualized behaviors, or mood changes may indicate something is wrong in patients with frontotemporal dementia, a disease that strikes especially hard in the front of the brain, where your personality and emotions are housed.
- Challenges with Problem Solving
Problem-solving may become more difficult as a result of memory loss, inability to make decisions, or even inability to define the desired outcome. In some cases, people simply need to be more patient as they age. In other cases, it may be an early warning sign of dementia.
- Communication Problems
If a loved one has difficulty joining in conversations or following along with them, stops abruptly in the middle of a thought, or struggles to recall words or the names of objects, pay attention.
Issues with communication or following storylines are common early signs of dementia. Dementia patients often forget the meaning of words they hear or struggle to follow conversations or TV shows.
- Trouble Recognizing Faces
Many adults suffering from cognitive decline notice a decline in their ability to recognize faces or remember the names of friends or loved ones. As dementia progresses, it becomes more difficult to respond appropriately to social cues.
You’ll notice signs that the person’s social skills are changing, such as avoiding or withdrawing from social situations, or isolating themselves. Withdrawing from social situations only adds to the issue and increases the risk of loneliness and depression.
Repeatedly asking the same question or telling the same story about a recent event are common symptoms of mild or moderate dementia. This is usually caused by memory loss and general behavioral changes.
The person may obsessively collect items or repeat daily tasks such as shaving or bathing.
- Trouble Accepting Change
Suddenly, they can’t recall familiar faces or follow what others are saying. They can’t remember why they went to the store and become disoriented on their way home. As a result, they may crave routine and be afraid to try new things.
Early Detection Matters
It can be difficult to know what to do if you notice one or more signs in yourself or another person. It’s natural to be anxious about discussing these changes with others.
Expressing concerns about your own health may make them appear more “real.” Alternatively, you may be concerned about upsetting someone by sharing observations about changes in their abilities or behavior.
However, these are serious health concerns that should be evaluated by a doctor, and it’s critical to act to figure out what’s going on.
Social Engagement Can Help
While medications provide some hope, other interventions can also be beneficial. If you have dementia, try to stay as active as possible.
It’s important that people with dementia are provided with the appropriate activities, stimulation, and environment to delay the progression of the disease. Senior living can provide you or a loved one with a safe environment full of activities and social interaction. If you’d like to learn more about how The Lodge at Truitt Homestead can assist you, please contact us or book a tour to see all of the resources we have available for those living with dementia.