What Are the Early Signs of Dementia?
Early signs of dementia are not always clear. You may find it hard to distinguish them from normal memory loss caused by an old age. Here are some warning signs you should look out for:
1. Memory Loss
Declining short-term memory is one of the most common early signs of dementia. People who have ordinary forgetfulness are still able to remember facts that are associated with things they have forgotten. For instance, a person may forget their neighbor's name, but can tell that that is their neighbor. A person suffering from dementia will forget the name and context.
2. Language Communication Problems
Everyone has, at one point or the other, found it difficult to find the correct word. A person having dementia will substitute unusual words making it hard for others to understand whether in writing or speech. People with dementia also forget simple words.
3. Personality Changes
People with dementia may look different from their normal selves and pinpointing the difference is hard. Those people may become agitated and anxious, apathetic, depressed, irritable and suspicious in times when their memory is a problem.
4. Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks
A person with dementia finds it difficult to the tasks that they previously did without even thinking about it. A person who has dementia may find it hard to put clothes in their respective order or forget the steps for preparing a specific meal.
5. Confusion and Disorientation
While people sometimes forget some things, a person who has dementia can get lost in a familiar environment like their neighborhood. They will forget how they arrived to that location and are unable to tell where they are or how they can get back to their homes. A person who has dementia can even confuse day and night.
6. Odd Behavior
Anyone can become moody or sad occasionally. A person having dementia has rapid mood swings and is unusually emotional for no reason. Alternatively, a person who has dementia may also show less emotion than they previously did. People who have dementia also sometimes repeat stories and can do so word for word. They may ask the same questions regardless of the many times you have answered. A person who has dementia also misplaces things and puts them in unusual places like a wristwatch in a sugar bowl or iron in the refrigerator.
7. Difficulty Following Storylines
People with dementia may find it hard to find the correct words and at times also forget the meaning of some words they hear. Another warning sign for dementia is struggling to follow TV programs or conversations.
It is important to note that a person who has these symptoms does not necessarily have dementia. Long-term consumption of alcohol, brain tumors, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal disorders, infections, depression can strokes can also cause the symptoms mentioned above. Most of these conditions are treatable.
When to See a Doctor
Consult a doctor if you notice dementia symptoms like memory problems. There are some treatable conditions that can cause symptoms linked to dementia. This is why it is important that you see a doctor to establish the underlying condition.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease worsen with time. As such, early detection is important as it gives you time to plan for the future of the patient while he is still able to make decisions.
What Causes Early Signs of Dementia?
There are several causes of dementia:
- Diseases that result in the degeneration and loss of the brain nerve cells like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.
- Diseases that affect blood vessels: For example, stroke can cause a disorder called multi-infarct dementia.
- Toxic reactions: Such as excessive drug or alcohol use.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Such as folate and Vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Infections that affect the brain and spinal cord: For example, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and AIDS dementia complex.
- Certain types of hydrocephalus: This is a fluid accumulation in the brain. It results from brain tumors, injury, infections and development abnormalities.
- Head injury: Either small chronic injuries or a single severe one that can result from boxing.
- Diseases in other important organs like lung, liver and kidney can also cause dementia.
What Are the Treatments of Dementia in Early Stage?
Many types of dementia are curable. However, doctors are going to help you find ways of managing the early symptoms of dementia. Dementia treatment can help minimize or slow the symptoms from developing. Medications like Memantine (Namenda), Cholinesterase may be used in the treatment of dementia.
There are several dementia behavior problems and symptoms that can be initially treated using therapies like:
- Environment modification: Reduce distracting noise and clutter to make it easier for a person with dementia to function and focus. It can also reduce frustration and confusion.
- Modify responses: Your response as the caregiver can worsen behavior such as agitation. Avoid quizzing and correcting a person who has dementia. Validate and reassure the person’s concerns to defuse many situations.
- Modify tasks: Break all tasks into smaller, easier steps and do not focus on failure. Routine and structure in a day will help reduce confusion.
2. Suggestion for Caregivers
People who have dementia over time experience progression of their behavior problems and symptoms. Here are some suggestions that caregivers should adapt to individual situations:
- Enhance communication: Maintain eye contact whenever you are talking to a person who has dementia. Speak slowly in small, simple sentences and do not rush for a response. Use cues and gestures when pointing at something.
- Encourage exercise: There is research that shows that physical activity can slow down progression of cognitive (impaired thinking) function in a person with dementia.
- Establish a nighttime routine: Behavior often worsens during the night. Establish good nighttime routines that will calm the patient. You can also leave night lights on to prevent disorientation.
- Encourage the patient to keep a calendar: A reminder calendar helps to remind the patient of upcoming events, medication schedules and daily activities.