Dementia is an ever-growing concern in both the United States and around the world. It is estimated that up to half of all men and women aged 85 and older have some form of dementia. Despite this, doctors do not consider it a normal part of aging. With the population only getting older, however, this problem is not going away. If you think you or a loved one might be experiencing dementia, the earlier you get help the better. These are some signs of dementia that you need to watch out for.
Get Checked For Dementia If You Can’t Do These Five Things
There are two ways in which the National Institute on Aging defines dementia. The first is that two or more of a person’s core functions are impaired. This could be memory, visual perception, language skills, or the ability to focus and pay attention. Cognitive skills and the ability to solve problems are also included. (1)
The second is a severe loss of brain function. This is bad enough that the person cannot do everyday, normal tasks. Dementia is not the same thing as Alzheimer’s Disease. Dementia, truthfully, is not a disease. It is a syndrome. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia caused by the accumulation of fragments of specific types of proteins in the brain. It accounts for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases.
There are other types of dementia and often a person will have more than one type at once. There is no cure, however, there are medications to help with symptoms and slow down its progression. This is why understanding the signs and getting help as soon as possible is important. There are several signs that people may often miss that they are experiencing the early stages of dementia.
1. You Don’t Get The Joke
Changes in behavior, language, and response to social cues can signify the early stages of dementia. The ability to understand jokes and sarcasm can often highlight this. If you or someone you know was once the most sarcastic or funny person in the room and now doesn’t get the joke, they may have dementia. (2)
2. Mood Changes or Sudden Depression
When dementia begins to set in, it is quite literally changing your brain. This can affect your mood greatly. A person can go from being positive and upbeat to suddenly struggling with feelings of unhappiness and depression. They can become moody or withdrawn and stop taking interest in the things that they used to love.
“Scientists have long known that depression and dementia go hand in hand,” says Dr Cornelia Cremens, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “If somebody appears to have the beginnings of dementia and they are depressed, it’s very important to treat their depression, and to treat it as aggressively as possible.”
3. Financial Problems
Keeping track of your spending and finances requires focus, concentration, and memory. If suddenly a loved one has unpaid bills stacking up or begins making purchases they don’t normally make, they might have dementia. Another financial issue that can signify cognitive problems is falling for scams. This is because as their brain is changing, their ability to recognize a scam may become diminished. Their judgment or ability to understand the consequences of their decisions becomes less.
Read: Study: Memories of music cannot be lost to Alzheimer’s and dementia
4. Memory Loss
If you already knew at least one symptom of dementia, memory loss is probably it. This is especially when talking about recently learned information. Other examples of memory loss that could be related to dementia include:
- Forgetting important dates or events
- Repeatedly asking the same questions or for the same information
- An increased reliance on memory aids (notes, phone reminders, or family members)
5. Trouble Walking
Riona McArdle of Newcastle University studied walking and dementia. She found that the way someone walks can change years before they actually develop dementia. Using mats with thousands of electronic sensors, she studied the way people walked who had no cognitive impairment, who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and those diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. (3)
She found that those in the two dementia groups walked differently than the rest. They took more variable, asymmetric, shorter steps. They also spent more time with both feet on the ground. McArdle also discovered that those with Lewy body dementia had a different walking pattern than those with Alzheimer’s. She says that by assessing people’s gait and stride, we could potentially identify dementia patients sooner.
Read: Our eyes may provide early warning signs of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
What To Do If You Think You Have Dementia
If you believe you or someone you know is exhibiting the signs of dementia, the most important thing to do is speak to your doctor. They can perform various tests and exams to determine if and what kind of dementia might be present. From there, a treatment plan can be laid out. As already mentioned, there currently is no cure. There are, however, medications and treatments to manage and slow down symptoms. (4)
Naturally, prevention is key. Though there are some genetics involved, having someone in your family with dementia doesn’t mean you, too, are doomed to get it. A healthy lifestyle, including physical activity, healthy eating habits, and proper sleep are important. Managing blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as limiting drinking and not smoking will improve your outlook. Finally, a healthy, regular social life is critical in protecting your brain. Being around people regularly can help stave off dementia and keep your brain healthy.
Keep Reading: GPS Insoles Are Available For Seniors With Alzheimer’s And Dementia
- “Dementia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More.” Everyday Health. Pamela Kaufman. December 20, 2018.
- “How you walk could be used to identify some types of dementia.” The Conversation. Ríona McArdle. October 7, 2019
- “Cognitive Health and Older Adults.” NIH