When it comes to dementia, early detection is essential.
There is currently no cure for dementia; however, early detection is still essential. Why? Because some causes of cognitive decline can be treated or even reversed. Additionally, treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s is more effective in the earlier stages of the diseases. Last but most certainly not least, the cognitive decline associated with dementia might cause your loved one to wander off and get lost, leave the oven on or take a dangerously high dose of their medications, among other risks. Although these incidents typically happen in the later stages of dementia, it’s important to provide your loved one with the care they need long before they could put themselves in danger.
But, recognizing the importance of early detection and detecting dementia early on are two very different things. With dementia, cognitive decline often happens slowly and gradually, and many people mistakenly attribute the signs of dementia to the supposed forgetfulness that comes with old age. The fact of the matter is that the only way to detect dementia early on is to watch out for the early warning signs. That’s why A Right Place for Seniors has come up with this list of early warning signs to watch out for:
#1. Trouble finding the right words
We all get tongue-tied every once in a while, but if your loved one can’t seem to find the right word on a regular basis, it might be cause for concern. Dementia can make it difficult to turn thoughts into words. Victims may have trouble coming up with even simple words, and sometimes, they may use a word inappropriately when they can’t remember the correct word. This often makes having conversations with people in the early stages of dementia challenging.
#2. Changes in short-term memory
The changes in short-term memory that occur in the early stages of dementia are subtle and incredibly common, even for healthy people who don’t have dementia. These changes in short-term memory include forgetting why they walked into a room, misplacing items, needing to be told information again and again, relying more and more on notes and reminders, forgetting dates or important events, etc. As we mentioned, we all have misplaced an item or forgotten why we entered a room at one point or another, but if it’s happening on a regular basis, it might be time for a doctor’s visit. Long-term memory, however, typically remains intact in people who suffer from dementia, and some are even able to recall events from the past in staggering detail.
#3. Difficulty doing everyday activities
Activities at work or at home that your loved one has completed regularly throughout their life can start to become difficult as dementia sets in. For example, your loved one may struggle to balance their checkbook, or they may have trouble remembering the rules of a favorite game they’ve been playing for years. They may even have trouble finding places they’ve been to a thousand times before, like the bank or the grocery store.
#4. Changes in personality or mood
Mood swings are, again, something we all experience from time to time, but mood swings in people suffering from the early stages of dementia can be dramatic. For instance, your typically positive, upbeat loved one could suddenly become suspicious or withdrawn for no apparent reason. It’s also not uncommon for victims of dementia to become depressed in the beginning. In many cases, changes in personality can also occur. Someone who was once a social butterfly may become quiet or antisocial, or someone who is introverted might find themselves talking to strangers more often. This is because dementia affects judgement.
#5. Challenges in problem solving or planning
Problems that could have easily been solved before might take a lot longer or be unsolvable for people struggling with the early stages of dementia. For example, someone who had balanced their checkbook throughout their lives may have trouble figuring out basic math problems, or someone who has been an accomplished cook for several years may have trouble following a recipe. Making plans also becomes problematic, as many people struggling with dementia have trouble seeing past the present moment.
The memory problems associated with dementia often lead to a lot of repetition. When your loved one can’t remember that they already said something, they will often repeat themselves. Some people suffering from dementia may also display behaviors similar to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), like repeating tasks over and over again, such as shaving or washing their hands. According to research from the American Academy of Neurology, OCD symptoms point to the development of frontotemporal dementia. Another study found that people demonstrating other compulsive behaviors, like checking and rechecking that the water was turned off or that they closed the garage door, have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s later on.
These are just a few of the many early warning signs of dementia that you should watch out for. Please stay tuned for our next blog to learn about more warning signs.
If you think you’re loved one may be suffering from dementia, don’t wait to get the help you need.
Have you noticed in any of the above signs of dementia in your loved one? If so, it’s imperative that you schedule an appointment with the doctor and get help right away. Not only is early treatment more effective, but it can put your loved one in a dangerous situation if they continue to live by themselves or somewhere they aren’t secure. At A Right Place for Seniors, we offer no-cost senior placement services, and we can help you find the right memory care option for your loved one. And, since all of our experts are locals to the areas they serve, they have first-hand knowledge of the facilities and care options available to you in your area. With our help, you’ll save time and gain peace of mind in knowing that you have experience and professional guidance on your side. Contact our Senior Living Consultants online today to get started.