Most people think of dementia as a disease that causes memory loss. In fact, dementia is a term that refers to a group of symptoms that affect cognitive function, personality, and social abilities as well as memory. Memory loss can have many causes, so people worried about their elderly loved ones’ well-being need to keep an eye out for additional symptoms, as well. If memory loss occurs in conjunction with any of the early warning signs of dementia described below, it’s time to schedule a visit with a neurologist.
People in the early stages of dementia sometimes have trouble performing tasks. While memory loss sometimes plays a role, distractibility is the primary underlying problem causing this issue. Problems such as forgetting steps while preparing a meal or having trouble following conversations become more common as symptoms progress.
Changes in Abstract Thinking
One of the most common early warning signs noticed by family members of seniors developing dementia is trouble dealing with personal finances. The issue goes deeper than just not being able to keep track of numbers, though. Dementia can cause changes in abstract thinking abilities, so affected seniors may have trouble even remembering what the numbers mean.
The types of personality changes that occur with dementia vary from person to person. However, irritability and rapid mood swings are both common symptoms. Of course, everyone has bad days and becomes moody from time to time. It’s patterns of mood and behavior that loved ones should look for, not one specific change. When seniors suddenly become suspicious and withdrawn or much more outgoing and disinhibited than they used to be, those can also be warning signs.
Loss of Initiative
People with dementia often lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. This symptom can manifest in ways similar to depression, which is also common in seniors. However, those with dementia may still enjoy activities if they receive cues prompting them to become involved. Some help getting started and staying on track can help to keep seniors’ engaged and provide social stimulation. Moving to a senior living community is very helpful in this regard.
People with dementia often struggle with poor judgment, especially as the underlying disease causing it progresses. They miss social cues, forget to wear coats in the middle of winter, spend money on unusual purchases, and otherwise make poor judgment calls regarding how to act or take care of themselves. Living in a community for seniors can help people struggling with these issues to avoid being taken advantage of or putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations.
People of all ages have trouble finding the right words from time to time. Those with dementia often forget simple words or substitute inappropriate ones, making it difficult for others to understand them. Similarly, they may have trouble understanding what other people are saying, making communication even more difficult. Using simple, direct language and speaking slowly can help with the latter problem.
Spatial and Temporal Disorientation
People with dementia often get lost, both in time and in physical space. They may not know what year it is or could confuse a familiar person with someone from their past. It’s also common for dementia patients to wander, getting lost in familiar places and feeling confused about where they are. Unfortunately, this can create dangerous situations when affected seniors are not provided with round-the-clock supervision.
What to Expect As Dementia Progresses
Most forms of dementia, including both Alzheimer’s disease and other lesser-known types, are progressive, meaning that they will worsen over time. Catching the problem while it is in its early stages gives loved ones the chance to help slow the decline, though. While there is no cure for dementia, research shows that factors such as diet, sleep quality, levels of mental stimulation, exercise, and social engagement can all affect the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Eventually, there will come a time when family caregivers will no longer be able to keep their loved ones safe at home. When that happens, finding a memory care community is the best way to provide for their needs and comfort.
How to Get Seniors the Care They Deserve
Seniors living with dementia deserve to feel that they are part of a supportive community just as anyone else does, or at least that’s what we believe here at Summerfield of Stockton Memory Care. That’s why we offer everything from restaurant-style dining to in-house beauty salons, and 24/7 personalized service. Browse our website to learn more about our memory care services or call (209) 951-6500 to schedule a tour today.