Do you know the signs of dementia?
Dementia is a silent epidemic. The number of people with dementia is expected to double every 20 years, according to a recent report in Forbes. This condition severely impacts a person’s quality of life.
It is important that dementia is diagnosed early. Although there is no cure for dementia, it may be possible to slow down the progression of the disease with treatment.
Dementia typically progresses very slowly and worsens over time. Diagnosis of dementia is made based on a detailed psychiatric evaluation, a brain scan, and a neurological exam.
The following is an overview of the signs of dementia, a list of symptoms, and treatment options.
Signs of Dementia
Here are the symptoms:
Memory loss and memory distortion are hallmark symptoms of dementia. Memory loss is often episodic.
Those suffering from dementia may have trouble remembering people, places and events. They may forget important life events, such as birthdays or wedding anniversaries. They may also forget times, places and emotions associated with past events.
Along with memory loss, those suffering from dementia often get confused. They may confuse past and present activities. They may have trouble finding their way around and can get lost frequently.
Those suffering from dementia frequently forget important daily activities and may need reminders.
For example, they may miss doctor’s appointments or forget to take their medication. They may have difficulty doing multi-step tasks or chores around the house.
Along with memory loss and confusion, a person with dementia will have impaired cognitive functioning. They may have difficulty with organization and planning — especially in activities that involve multiple steps.
For example, they may have trouble paying bills, balancing their checkbook, or making a dinner reservation.
It is common for those suffering from dementia to have speech problems. They may have trouble finding words or forget what they wanted to say in the middle of a conversation.
Difficulty with Social Interaction
A person with dementia may become withdrawn in social settings.
They may have trouble communicating, paying attention to others or following the flow of conversation. They may not recognize previously familiar people.
Additionally, they may forget common rules of social etiquette – for example, they may interrupt or speak out of turn.
Personality change is another sign of dementia. Those suffering from dementia may become agitated, impulsive, irritable or anxious. They may get angry or upset very quickly.
It’s not uncommon for people living with dementia to have frequent emotional outbursts, especially when put in circumstances that are unfamiliar or when in confusing situations.
Visual and Perceptual Difficulties
A person with dementia may experience changes in their vision. Their pupils may be more sensitive to light. They may experience double vision or have changes in their visual field.
Many people living with dementia also have trouble with facial recognition and depth perception.
Treatment for Dementia
Although there is no cure for dementia, there are ways to ease the symptoms. Treatment depends on the stage of the illness.
Medication has been shown to improve symptoms of dementia. Medications are prescribed to boost the chemical messengers in the brain that are responsible for memory and cognition.
Some sufferers of dementia also benefit from medications to treat depression, sleep disturbances, and agitation associated with the condition.
An occupational therapist can visit the patient’s home and modify the environment to make it easier to navigate. This helps reduce the risk of falls.
A therapist can also teach coping mechanisms for memory loss and confusion. For example, it is often helpful to break big tasks down into simple steps.
Modifying the Home Environment
Reducing noise and clutter can help a person living with dementia accomplish tasks with minimal distraction.
Place labels on doors, light switches and cabinets to help them find their way around the home. It may be necessary to remove or hide objects that could cause harm, such as knives, scissors, and car keys, if the person becomes confused.
Daily Structure and Routine
Establishing a daily structure and routine can significantly improve the quality of life for a person living with dementia. Keep a calendar to remember upcoming events, daily activities and medication times.
Signs of Dementia and Planning for the Future
Because dementia gets worse over time, it is important to make plans for the future.
Things to consider include: legal issues, financial goals and future care if the individual needs 24/7 assistance. Consider joining a support group for dementia suffers and their family members.