January 17, 2019
As we age, it’s natural to experience forgetfulness. Losing track of your keys once in a while, or forgetting an acquaintance’s name when you randomly bump into them on the street are normal occurrences that tend to happen with more frequency as you get older. If impairments to memory, thought, or communication become increasingly common or more severe, it may be time to assess these symptoms more closely, as they may be warning signs of early dementia.
Dementia is not a singular disease; rather, it is a combination of symptoms that signify age-related cognitive decline most commonly caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Symptoms of dementia tend to vary greatly from person to person, but memory loss is at the top of the list.
Those with dementia struggle primarily with short-term memory loss, and often have trouble locating personal items, paying bills on time, or remembering why they entered a room. Dementia sufferers are often able to recall events from years past, but can’t remember what they ate for lunch. With time, this symptom will worsen if not properly diagnosed and managed by a healthcare professional.
Another symptom that crops up early on is an inability to speak normally or find the right words. This can make conversation difficult for both parties, as the thread becomes easily confusing or loses its meaning. Repetition becomes a key theme as well, and many dementia sufferers will ask the same question over and over, which also ties to other symptoms like memory loss.
Because dementia affects mental functions, it also affects your ability to solve problems, make plans, or understand complex ideas. This symptom takes many forms — it could mean that following an old, familiar recipe suddenly becomes tricky, or tasks involving numbers (like paying bills or balancing your checkbook) are too difficult to complete.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be exhibiting early signs of dementia, social withdrawal is another symptom to keep an eye out for. Similar warning signals include anger, aggression, anxiety, and general mood fluctuations. Dementia’s impact on the brain is not only physical, it can also be emotional, so it is important to monitor behavior closely if these symptoms appear in conjunction with others. Luckily, there are several resources available to you and your family to cope with these sensitive issues.
Dementia can change eyesight and how you perceive the world around you. When dementia sets in, it can narrow your field of vision, which can make movement and travel problematic. As it progresses, the condition can also cause spatial issues — for example, someone may appear to be fussing with their hair, when in reality, they are attempting to switch off a light that seems much closer to them than it actually is.
Risk factors for dementia, including age and genetics, can’t be controlled. But by routinely engaging in healthy activities, like exercise and feeding your brain with a nutritious diet, you or your loved one can help reduce the chances of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s later in life. Regular check-ups with your doctor are also key to detecting symptoms of dementia early and ensuring they are addressed as soon as possible.