With 55 million people with dementia worldwide, it will not be wide of the mark to say that it is a relatively common disease, especially for people aged 60 or above. However, despite it being so common, people often have a miscalculated definition of what it means.
Dementia, rather than being a disease itself, is a word used to define a group of symptoms that affect a person’s memory, thinking, social abilities, and communication. Several diseases can leave a person with dementia, sometimes severe enough to impact their daily lives and activities.
Though memory loss and dementia are often co-related, it is not that a person suffering from memory loss necessarily has dementia. Instead, memory problems can be caused due to several reasons and health conditions, dementia being one of them.
Furthermore, a dementia diagnosis requires a person to show at least two severe impairments that affect their daily life. Let us look at some common symptoms –
It is not uncommon to have mood swings, but a rather drastic mood shift is also a common symptom of dementia, depression being a good example. For a person with dementia, the shift may not be apparent, but it is very much so for others near them.
Moreover, since dementia also often affects judgment, personality shift besides mood swings is also an early sign.
Indifference And Difficulty Communicating
Loss of interest in matters a person once found quite intriguing and fun is every day in dementia. Apart from activities and hobbies, the person may also develop apathy towards their own family and friends with an unwillingness to go outdoors. In short, developing an emotionally numb nature.
Difficulty in communication, whether it is not being able to find the right word, forgetting mid-way what they were addressing, or just loss of interest, is another common sign of dementia. It makes conversing with a person with dementia rather hard to follow and extended.
Short Term Memory And Confusion
Memory loss and changes are early signs of dementia, but they do not always include significant effects. For example, forgetting subtle details like what they had for lunch, where they kept a particular item, etc., while remembering something from years ago is also one of many different forms of dementia.
The same can also trigger confusion in the person, which then extends to a lapse in judgment, thinking, and memory. In severe cases, the symptoms will grow further than just troubled interaction or confusion and include a hard time remembering faces.
Trouble Completing Usual And Familiar Tasks
Dementia often, besides social life, also interferes with the person’s personal life, including his ability to do regular day-to-day chores. This early sign of dementia begins subtly through the inability to handle complex events such as doing calculations, playing games like chess, or those with several rules, etc.
And, of course, this difficulty follows through in the new chores they are trying to learn, like playing a new game, learning a new trick, or just following a new schedule.
Repetitiveness And Struggle To Follow Conversations
Memory loss added with behavioral changes often leads people with dementia to repeat a specific task or a conversation. It can be explaining or questioning the same thing repeatedly or doing a chores, such as eating lunch, collecting items, etc., multiple times in a day.
Similarly, you may have explained something several times to someone with dementia. Still, due to memory loss, they forget or mix the meanings of words and sentences. Leading to a hard time following what the other person is trying to convey.
Inability To Adapt To Change
While it may seem that a person with dementia does not know what is happening with or around them, it is not the case. More often than not, the feeling of knowing someone but not recognizing them. Not being able to take part or understand a conversation, etc., creates a deep lingering fear in them.
The same fear, uncertainty, and anxiety push them to create a systematic and known environment that is safer, leading to a constant need for a set routine. Therefore, any new routine or experience becomes a big no-no.
Lost Sense Of Direction
People living with dementia have a poor sense of direction as well as spatial orientation. It could be as severe for a person as to forget a place that they’ve spent most of their lives at, including directions and landmarks.
Loss or damage to the nerve cells, including their connection to the brain, can cause dementia. However, dementia is not the same for everyone as its effect on people, and the visible symptoms vary as per the damaged area of the brain.
So how do people group dementia? It is done by finding what’s familiar, like the part of the brain affected, proteins deposited in the brain, etc.
But note that it does not mean that any medical condition, reaction to a medication, or deficiencies with dementia-like symptoms is dementia. Instead, in most cases like these, the condition improves with treatment.
Some major types of dementia that are not reversible include –
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Lewy body dementia
- Mixed dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Vascular dementia
While dementia as a part of aging or family history cannot be changed, a person definitely can control certain factors associated with dementia to reduce the risk. These include –
- Being physically active with at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise.
- A good diet rich in fruits, omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, whole grains, etc.
- I am avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, considering how it is linked with signs of brain damage.
- Hypertension, high cholesterol levels, obesity, diabetes, smoking, depression, exposure to extreme air pollution, head trauma, and sleep disturbances are linked to a higher risk of developing dementia. And, so avoiding these make for an excellent way to keep healthy.
- I am avoiding nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin D, folate, and vitamin B-6.
- Make sure to get good sleep while actively seeking treatment for any hearing problems.
- Keep your mind active through puzzles, games, books, etc.
It is not easy living with dementia, certainly not so easy to treat it either. And therefore, it grows imperative to notice early medical signs of dementia to avoid worsening it.
Regular visits to the doctor for any similar medical condition. Discussing the signs and effects is an excellent way to acknowledge and treat dementia early efficiently. Happy Scrolling!