It’s estimated 55 million people around the world live with dementia, and 10 million more are diagnosed each year. Age is understood to be the most influential risk factor in these diagnoses.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia is not a disease but a syndrome. In other words, dementia is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, there are other disorders that result in the same difficulties. Regardless of the underlying issue, dementia affects one’s ability to reason, remember, communicate, and process information.
“It’s important to recognize the warning signs of dementia and seek medical advice when you notice them,” says Marco Gonzalez, Director of Sales of East Ridge at Cutler Bay, a Miami-Dade County Life Plan Community with one-story living on 76 acres of green space. “Early diagnosis can result in better treatment options, prolonged independent living, and a greater opportunity to plan for long-term care.”
This guide will help you identify early warning signs, understand the types of dementia that exist, and determine next steps for your loved one.
5 Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Experts have identified some key early symptoms in those with dementia. If your loved one is experiencing one or more of these, they should consult with their doctor.
- Short-Term Memory Problems That Impact Daily Life
Short-term memory loss is a common experience for a person with dementia. They may remember events from their childhood but not remember a visit they had with a friend a few hours ago.
Other ways short-term memory loss can manifest is:
- Forgetting where they put something
- Struggling to recall why they entered a room
- Missing appointments or planned activities
- Mood Swings and Personality Changes
Cognitive decline can result in demonstrable shifts in personality and the ability to regulate emotions. Depression, anxiety and fearfulness are common.
Sometimes dementia results in a typically shy person becoming more outgoing or a motivated person to become apathetic. If you’re worried your loved one might be experiencing dementia, watch for any changes in personality or mood swings.
- Problems Communicating
People experiencing dementia often have difficulty recalling the right words to express themselves or to explain something. They may pause in the middle of a thought, unsure how to say what they want to say. They may also repeat certain stories about recent experiences.
If you find it suddenly or increasingly difficult to understand your loved one, this isn’t a sign you should ignore.
- Difficulty Performing Everyday Tasks
Another common sign of dementia is having trouble completing routine tasks. Examples include balancing their checkbook, playing a game with multiple rules, or following a recipe.
You might also notice a decline in your loved one’s attention to hygiene. If you notice a difference in their cleanliness or overall appearance, you might ask some follow-up questions like:
- Did you bathe today?
- Are you doing laundry?
- Have you been to the salon lately?
It’s possible these sorts of changes to their appearance could be related to a decline in cognitive function.
Confusion is common in people with dementia because they can easily lose their sense of time and place. It’s easy for them to get lost, be confused about why they are in a certain environment, or to forget what day it is.
Getting turned around while driving or not knowing how they arrived somewhere is particularly concerning. These sorts of slips in judgment can be dangerous and warrant a conversation with a health professional.
4 Types of Dementia
- Alzheimer’s disease is the result of protein fragments between nerve cells and tangled fibers in the brain. Damage begins in the hippocampus and gradually spreads. Memory is primarily affected.
- Vascular dementia is caused by damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. It mostly impacts focus, organization, problem-solving and processing speed.
- Lewy body dementia is characterized by particular protein deposits called Lewy bodies. They disrupt brain chemistry and negatively impact movement, thinking, behavior and mood.
- Frontotemporal degeneration is caused by damage to the frontal and temporal lobes. This leads to a decline in behavior, language and movement.
Where to Go for Help
If your loved one is showing signs of dementia, contact their doctor. If their health care provider shares your concern, they will likely refer your family member to a neurologist. Here, they may undergo evaluations like:
- A series of cognitive tests
- Blood tests
- Brain imaging
After a diagnosis of dementia, the next step may be discussing treatment and long-term plans for care. Senior living communities like East Ridge at Cutler Bay offer comprehensive support to older adults with dementia.
Memory Support at East Ridge at Cutler Bay Life Plan Community
East Ridge at Cutler Bay provides top-tier, personalized memory support for people with cognitive decline. At our Palm Lane memory support neighborhood, we’re committed to providing positive emotional experiences and innovative care. We’re a senior living community that offers sensory programming, a family-centric environment, and a state-of-the-art medical care facility. Visit us to discover how we support continued independence and enrich residents’ quality of life.