Misplaced keys. A forgotten name. All can be a worry to a senior and her family. Is it just a process of aging, or is there something more?
Dementia affects the lives of millions of people every day. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most familiar type of dementia, there are other forms of the disease. And while there is no known cure, there are things that you can do – the earlier you catch it, the better.
Knowing these warning signs can help you, or a loved one, get an earlier diagnosis.
1. Less sociable – When a person is in the early stages of dementia, even if they do not realize exactly what is wrong, they do know something is wrong. This can cause them to pull away from family and friends, to avoid social scenes. They quickly feel their “problems” won’t be as noticeable if they simply avoid spending time with people that know them the best.
2. Changes in personality – The early stages of dementia can include changes in a person’s personality. A person who was once the life of the party, chatty and friendly, may begin to exhibit sudden mood swings. Or you may notice sudden outbursts. Watch for these subtle changes; is it due to a stressful situation, or is it occurring with more frequency?
3. Problems with words – People with the beginning stages of dementia may experience trouble “finding the right words” when they are speaking. Be aware of those sudden stops mid-sentence to struggle to find the exact word. Don’t finish sentences; instead, see if the person can find the word on their own.
4. Eye problems – Another early sign of dementia are eye problems. A person may suddenly struggle to walk from place to place because of problems with depth perception or colors. An eye doctor is a great place to start the process of detecting changes in health.
5. Struggling with complicated tasks – A person in the early stages of dementia may have trouble completing complicated tasks that they have performed numerous times before. They may begin to avoid these tasks. For example, an accountant may begin having trouble balancing budgets and books, or a tailor may be unable to make complex alterations. Watch for unfinished tasks, and work together to find the reason behind avoidance.
Understanding some of the early signs of dementia can help you, or a loved one, seek the treatment you need much sooner. While an occasional memory issue is not necessarily definitive of dementia, if you experience one or more of them on a recurring basis, it is time for a checkup. The sooner you know if there is a problem, the faster you will be able to get help.