As we age, it’s not unusual to have occasional trouble finding the right word or remembering where you put things. However, persistent difficulty with things like memory, cognition, and completing familiar tasks could be warning signs of dementia.
“Dementia” is a term used to describe a progressive decline in mental ability that affects memory, thinking, language, and coordination severely enough to interfere with daily life. It isn’t a specific disease, but several conditions can cause dementia. About 6.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia – and its prevalence is projected to reach nearly 13 million by 2050.
If you have a loved one who you suspect may be at risk for dementia, it’s important to understand the early symptoms so that you can seek medical care if necessary:
Forgetfulness – It’s normal to occasionally forget things like a phone number or where you put your keys. However, a person in the early stages of dementia may forget things more often or forget things long known – like the names of close family or what a certain appliance is used for. They may also repeat themselves frequently, ask the same question multiple times, or be unable to recall recent events.
Difficulty concentrating – Dementia can make it difficult to focus and pay attention. As dementia progresses, your loved one may find it getting tougher to keep up with a story, or complete multi-step tasks like balancing a checkbook or following a recipe.
Confusion – A person with dementia may become easily confused or disoriented, especially in unfamiliar situations or surroundings. They may also have trouble with spatial awareness, which could lead to falls or accidents. Physical dangers like these are one of the reasons why assistive care can have such an important impact on quality of life.
Difficulty doing familiar tasks – With dementia, doing everyday tasks like cooking or cleaning becomes more and more difficult. Your loved one may even stop doing these things altogether. They may also struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.
Trouble communicating – Dementia can make it difficult to find the right words or to express oneself clearly. Your loved one may have trouble remembering simple words or may use the wrong words to refer to things.
Mood changes – If you notice uncharacteristic mood swings or personality changes in your loved one, that may be a cause for concern. Dementia can cause people to become more anxious, apathetic, depressed, or irritable. They may also become more withdrawn and less interested in social activities.
Poor reasoning and judgment – Dementia may affect a person’s ability to make good decisions and to understand the consequences of their actions. You may notice them acting more impulsive or making irrational decisions like wearing cold weather clothing on a hot day or saying inappropriate things in social settings.
It’s important to note that not all of these symptoms may be present in every person with dementia, and some may be more pronounced than others. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in a friend or family member, it’s important to talk to their doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow the progression of dementia and improve their quality of life.
If you suspect someone you care for may be at risk for dementia, Miami Jewish Health’s Frank C. and Lynn Scaduto MIND Institute provides outpatient diagnostic assessments for aging individuals who either have concerns about changes in their neurocognitive abilities, or who have an established impairment and are looking for re-assessment and cognitive care planning. For people struggling with memory decline, or those who just want to keep their minds healthy as they age – we are here to help. For more information, contact us at 305.514.8710.