Warning Signs of Dementia

It’s normal to sometimes forget where you put your keys or to have trouble finding just the right word as you age. So how can you tell when you or someone you love is suffering from normal age-related memory issues or if it’s something more serious?

Dementia generally describes a range of conditions that cause a loss of memory, language, and problem-solving skills. A new report from the Alzheimer’s Association found that close to 6.2 million Americans over the age of 65 live with Alzheimer’s or related dementias.

At MJHS Health System, we see the impact dementia has on patients and their families every day. We have experience caring for patients living with dementia and can help you navigate the symptoms and challenges you and your loved one will likely encounter along the way.

We hope that this guide to the early warning signs of dementia is helpful. If you have concerns about your family member’s or your own memory, it’s always best to consult with a doctor.

The Early Warning Signs of Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella medical term covering a range of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease. It affects the brain’s ability to communicate, think, and problem solve. The signs of dementia vary widely from person to person. Dementia conditions are progressive. Often, they evolve slowly but in some cases the progression can be rapid. Early intervention can reduce the risk of conditions related to dementia. That’s why it’s important that you – or your loved one – be evaluated by a neurologist as early as possible if you suspect dementia.

Early signs of dementia include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Difficulty problem-solving
  • Confusion about the time or place
  • Getting lost
  • Difficulty communicating or finding words
  • Misplacing things
  • Personality or mood changes

Causes of Dementia

Dementia is a blanket term that covers a number of conditions with different causes. In general, dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the way cells communicate with each other.

Some of the more common causes of dementia include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries- Injuries caused by car accidents, serious falls, and concussions can lead to dementia.
  • Degenerative neurological disorders- Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and forms of multiple sclerosis can lead to dementia.
  • Central nervous system infections- Meningitis, HIV, and other diseases that impact the central nervous system can contribute to dementia.
  • Vascular disorders- Any disorder that impacts blood circulation in or around the brain can cause cell damage.
  • Family History- Many dementia-causing disorders have documented links to genetic history.

What are the Treatment Options?

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for dementia. But there are medications that can help decrease memory loss or confusion in early dementia, depending on its cause. Please see a neurologist right away if you suspect dementia.

In addition to medications, behavioral therapies and coping strategies may benefit patients with dementia. Cognitive rehabilitation with a trained professional can help patients with mild to moderate dementia learn to use better functioning parts of their brains to help compensate for losses. Art and music therapies can also help ease agitation, and help patients express or communicate their feelings when words fail.

If you’re worried about memory loss or you are concerned about a family member, the most important thing you can do is get medical care. Dementia is a frightening condition, but there are effective therapies available. These therapy options work better the earlier they’re initiated, so don’t put off going to a doctor.

Caregiver Options

In addition to helping your loved one get the care they need, there are resources available for you as the caregiver. Sometimes the responsibilities and demanding schedules can feel like a lot to bear, but remember, support is there if you need it. Lean on family, friends, and neighbors when you need help with errands.
You might also find it helpful to participate in a caregiver support group, where you can share your own stories and listen to your peers’ experiences. Whether discussing denial, acknowledgement, struggles, or positive impacts, sometimes talking about your feelings can be a huge relief.

MJHS has extensive experience caring for patients and their families with compassion, dignity, and respect. Contact us today to learn more about our dementia services and how we can help provide the care you and your family may need.