Your loved one seems more easily confused these days and a little more lost as they negotiate their everyday activities. And they’re no longer a spring chicken, so you wonder whether dementia might be starting to develop.
While dementia is certainly not an inevitable part of growing older, it is common with age. Dementia is diagnosed every 3 seconds around the world, and by 2030, experts predict that it will affect 78 million people around the globe.
As neurology experts, board-certified neurologist Dr. Paul Gill and our team here at Gill Neuroscience have certainly seen our fair share of dementia, and we have extensive experience helping patients and loved ones better navigate this challenging condition.
As with most health issues, early detection is important, which is why we’re focusing on early red flags that dementia may be developing in your loved one.
The first thing to understand about dementia is that it’s a catchall term for a progressive decline in mental ability. Some forgetfulness is normal as you age, as are minor issues with cognitive function, but dementia is when this decline interferes with the person's ability to function.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which affects 6.7 million Americans aged 65 and older.
Whether the dementia is related to Alzheimer’s disease or not, the early signs of mental decline are the same and include:
The memory loss that comes with dementia extends far past age-related forgetfulness. With dementia, your loved one may repeat questions, sometimes several times a day, about things that they should know, such as important events or dates. Or they may simply ask why you’re going to the grocery store several times, having forgotten the answer you just gave.
This memory loss typically affects short-term memory at first, but can travel further back in time.
Forgetting where you put things is common at any age, but the issue does grow as you get older. With dementia, this forgetfulness is more frequent and more acute. For example, your loved one misplaces the keys every time they come home and often puts them in strange places.
While keys are a classic example of losing things, this forgetfulness extends to just about everything, from where they put the hat they wear everyday to where they might have parked the car.
People with early dementia can become confused more easily with tasks that they used to perform without a second thought. For example, they might fumble with their phone or television remote and not figure out how to use the devices.
People with dementia can become progressively lost in time, confusing dates and thinking that they’re in another year or decade altogether.
A common side effect of early dementia is withdrawal, as your loved one recognizes the problem and chooses to shut down rather than reveal their disability. This means they may not want to socialize as much, and instead, they spend more time at home.
A person with early dementia can become irritable or anxious as the confusion and memory loss start to take their toll and lead to frustration. They can also become more frightened and hesitant to try something new or anything that’s out of their comfort zone.
If your loved one is experiencing any of these signs, we urge you to come see us so we can diagnose their condition. While there's no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, there are treatments and therapies that can slow the progression and make life more manageable.