Q: Dear Regina, What are early symptoms of dementia? Is it obvious or subtle? When should we really be concerned? Some people are overly frightened and some don’t even think it can happen to them. I understand as we get older our risk is higher. I am hearing an increase of people in their 40s developing Alzheimer’s. What is a good age to start being concerned?
A: You have touched on many concerns. I will list the signs from an article I read in HealthLine written by Valencia Higuera and Mary Ellen Ellis.
It is true that an increased number of younger people are developing dementia. According to Alzheimer Disease International, every 3 seconds someone in the world develops some form of dementia. That is frightening!
The best age to start with concern is birth. Pregnant moms, along with dads-to-be should be introducing good nutrition, exercise, healthy attitude, good spiritual connection and be aware of your environment to pass on to unborn baby. Also continue to nurture the child to develop a healthy lifestyle. This will significantly reduce your risk. However, this is not a guarantee as there is no single cause to be identified nor is there a cure. For those of us who will be randomly chosen to be afflicted, we should pay attention to the subtle changes at any age. If you notice a change in your thinking or memory, it is advised to be persistent in finding out what is causing the changes. Understand that practicing continuous brain health can improve your memory in many cases.
SYMPTOMS OF DEMENTIA
1. Subtle short-term memory changes
Trouble with memory can be an early symptom of dementia. The changes are often subtle and tend to involve short-term memory. An older person may be able to remember events that took place years ago but not what they had for breakfast.
Other symptoms of changes in short-term memory include forgetting where they left an item, struggling to remember why they entered a particular room, or forgetting what they were supposed to do on any given day.
2. Difficulty finding the right words
A person with dementia may have difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be difficult and it may take longer than usual to conclude.
3. Changes in mood
If you have dementia, it isn’t always easy to recognize this in yourself, but you may notice this change in someone else. Depression, for instance, is typical of early dementia.
Along with mood changes, you might also see a shift in personality. One typical type of personality change seen with dementia is a shift from being shy to outgoing. This is because the condition often affects judgment.
Apathy, or listlessness, commonly occurs in early dementia. A person with symptoms could lose interest in hobbies or activities. They may not want to go out anymore or do anything fun. They may lose interest in spending time with friends and family and also seem emotionally flat.
5. Difficulty completing normal tasks
A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks may indicate that someone has early dementia. This usually starts with difficulty doing more complex tasks like balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules.
Along with the struggle to complete familiar tasks, they may struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.
Someone in the early stages of dementia may often become confused. When memory, thinking, or judgment lapses, confusion may arise as they can no longer remember faces, find the right words, or interact with people normally.
Confusion can occur for a number of reasons and apply to different situations. For example, they may misplace their car keys, forget what comes next in the day, or have difficulty remembering someone they’ve met before.
7. Difficulty following storylines
Difficulty following storylines may occur due to early dementia. This is a classic early symptom.
Just as finding and using the right words becomes difficult, people with dementia sometimes forget the meanings of words they hear or struggle to follow along with conversations or TV programmes.
8. A failing sense of direction
The sense of direction and spatial orientation commonly starts to deteriorate with the onset of dementia. This can mean not recognizing once-familiar landmarks and forgetting regularly used directions. It also becomes more difficult to follow a series of directions and step-by-step instructions.
9. Being repetitive
Repetition is common in dementia because of memory loss and general behavioural changes. The person may repeat daily tasks, such as shaving, or they may collect items obsessively.
They also may repeat the same questions in a conversation after they’ve been answered.
10. Struggling to adapt to change
For someone in the early stages of dementia, the experience can cause fear. Suddenly, they can’t remember people they know or follow what others are saying. They can’t remember why they went to the store and they get lost on the way home.
Because of this, they might crave routine and be afraid to try new experiences. Difficulty adapting to change is also a typical symptom of early dementia.
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