Dementia does not refer to a specific disease but a general loss of memory, problem-solving, language and other critical thinking skills. For many people, losing memory is like losing identity because personality encompasses experience. While dementia can affect people to varying degrees, warning signs exist. If you detect the condition early enough, it is possible to slow its progression. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, there are early warning signs of dementia.
1. Challenges Performing Routine Tasks
Everyone can experience a lapse in memory when performing routine tasks, like forgetting to plate a part of a meal when you're busy. The difference between normal forgetfulness and dementia is a person with dementia will experience habitual lapses. Also, their forgetfulness will involve tasks they have performed countless times throughout their lives; for example, they may forget how to make a meal or even play a favorite game.
2. Memory Loss Affecting Day-To-Day Activities
Forgetting appointments or names are relatively common. In a busy world, it is normal for the brain to have momentary lapses. People with dementia will forget things frequently; they may also forget things they recently learned. If someone you love is struggling to retain new information or forgetting the familiar, it might be time to get them to a doctor.
3. Disorientation With Time and Place
It is challenging to diagnose dementia early because it mimics regular lapses in judgment and memory. A healthy person can occasionally forget what day of the week it is or why they made a left turn when they should have turned right. A person with dementia experiences these common occurrences of forgetfulness with greater frequency and severity.
4. Language Problems
People with dementia often struggle to find the right word or phrase. They can also insert random words into their sentences, making it hard to decipher what they mean. Language problems can lead to frustration and anger because a person with dementia often understands what they want to say; they just can't communicate it.
5. Trouble With Abstract Thought
While you may not realize it, you likely use abstract thinking skills daily. Balancing a checkbook and making a purchase are simple but abstract activities because they revolve around the idea of numbers and applied meaning. People with dementia often forget how to work with numbers, and some may even forget what they are.
6. Impaired Judgment
Dementia can affect the reasoning part of the brain, meaning people with dementia will often make questionable decisions. While you may understand you shouldn't wear a winter coat on a hot day, someone with dementia may not see a problem with it. Also, people with dementia may not recognize when they need medical attention, which is potentially life-threatening.
7. Behavioral and Personality Changes
A person with dementia can experience extreme mood swings within a short period. Also, shifts in emotion can occur for no apparent reason. They can go from laughing one minute to crying the next and having an angry outburst the next.
Additionally, dementia can cause significant personality changes. A person experiencing symptoms may become increasingly suspicious, withdrawn or confused.
Dementia is scary for many people. If you believe you or a loved one is showing early signs of dementia, consult a medical professional.