As a loved one ages, it can be hard to tell whether they are developing the early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s or if changes they face are a normal part of aging. However, it’s important to catch signs of dementia as soon as possible so that treatment can help slow the progression and improve quality of life. Not sure how to tell the difference? Here are five signs that your family member is facing more than just old age:
Memory loss is disruptive: Almost everyone experiences some difficulty with memory as they grow older. Even middle-aged individuals may find themselves forgetting details or little things. However, in a healthy older person this memory loss is minor and often temporary. An individual might forget something they were told but then recall it, or remember it instantly when reminded. With dementia, memory loss is much more pronounced. An individual with dementia may have to ask a question many times. They may also need to leave themselves an ever-increasing number of notes in order to get basic things done.
Can’t complete familiar tasks: Activities of daily living include things like brushing your teeth, cooking, doing the dishes, and dressing and grooming yourself. They are things that everyone needs to do to get by and which seniors have been doing for themselves for many decades without a problem. But these tasks become difficult or confusing as dementia sets in. They may forget what they are doing partway through, they may have trouble remembering what to do or where they keep essentials like toothpaste, or they may simply forget to do these activities altogether.
Confusion with time or place: When you’re retired it’s normal to lose track of the day here and there, but dementia creates roadblocks in even recognizing what week, month or time of year it is—or ultimately, what decade it is. Similarly, familiar places may become strange and easily forgotten.
Withdrawal: One of the most devastating effects of dementia is withdrawal. As dementia advances and patients cope with difficulty speaking, remembering words, recognizing people, or placing themselves in location and time, the process of trying to engage with others and follow conversations becomes burdensome. This can lead to loneliness and depression.
Personality changes: Old age may make activities more difficult, but changes in mood and personality are a potential sign of dementia. Dementia can lead to agitation and restlessness or sudden changes in mood.
Dogwood Forest Assisted Living is a set of communities in metro Atlanta dedicated to enriching the lives of their residents. Learn more at www.DogwoodForest.com