Signs of Dementia

15 August 2023

If you are around middle age, you have no doubt thought you were on your way to dementia. Any one at any age can be concerned about a relative, coworker, friend, or acquaintance that may show signs of diminished mental capacity. Actually we all experience times when we misplace items, walk into a room and forget why, miss deadlines simply because we forgot, and other similar actions. That does not necessarily mean you have lost your marbles. Sometimes it is due to stress or simply overloading your thoughts with details.

To begin with, there are several forms of dementia, not just Alzheimer’s Disease.

  • Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent diagnosis with an estimated 60% to 80% suffering from this condition. The most common symptoms are memory loss, poor planning, and inability to handle familiar tasks.
  • Vascular dementia is the result of a major stroke or even a small stroke that goes unnoticed. This is characterized by difficulty planning, organizing, or making decisions.
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) is when microscopic protein forms deposits in the brain. This is named for the scientist who identified them. When these deposits land in the brain’s cortex, the diagnosis results.
  • Parkinson’s dementia occurs when an individual has this disorder that affects the nervous system and in 50% to 80% of the time, these people will become disoriented very much like someone with DLB.
  • Mixed dementia is a combination of any of the identified types of dementia, most commonly Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

These are only some of the diagnoses. The point of this piece is to help people identify the symptoms of dementia as opposed to natural age-related changes that we will all experience over time.

  • Memory loss – Forgetting. Sometimes it is forgetting something you just learned, read, or saw. (Typical test is to provide the person with three words and then a minute or two later to ask them to repeat those same words.) Forgetting important events. Asking the same question repeatedly. If these things happen occasionally or you remember the item later, you are probably okay.
  • Problems – Making the occasional error is not an issue. However, when it is increasingly apparent that someone cannot manage their own finances or activities of daily life, you should be concerned.
  • Familiar Tasks – This includes getting lost even when going to a familiar place, organizing a list of errands, or remembering something they do on a daily basis. Again, occasionally needing help is not of particular concern, but repeated confusion is.
  • Confusion – This includes becoming disoriented especially in familiar locations and even forgetting how they got there. Everyone loses track of dates or days of the week, but extensive loss of time or place is serious.
  • Verbal Issues – Both dementia and strokes can leave a person with difficulty speaking, following a conversation, or repeating the same thing over and over. From time to time losing track of a discussion, plot of a tv show, or finding it difficult to choose the right word is a common issue with aging but not necessarily dementia.
  • Judgment – This is a concern with someone who will allow themselves to be scammed or taken advantage of. It can have serious implications.
  • Mood Change – If you notice a significant change in personality, or withdrawal from social events, pay careful attention for other symptoms. Sometimes withdrawal is merely due to depression.

If you have concerns about yourself or someone else, there are tests that can help determine if the situation is serious. Speak with your, or their, medical personnel to see what actions should be taken.

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