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Early Signs of Dementia Every Family Should Know

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Elder man sitting on a sofa with wife looking for early signs of dementia.

With the Alzheimer’s Association reporting that more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and that the number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million by 2050, we’re all rightly concerned about the prospect of a loved one becoming one of those statistics.

What’s more, Alzheimer’s disease is just one type of dementia, although it is the most common type. As such, you may wonder if some of the forgetfulness your loved one has been experiencing is cause for concern. To help, here are the early signs of dementia that families in Hillsborough Township and beyond should know.

Understanding dementia

Many are surprised to learn that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not the same thing. Actually, dementia itself is not a disease but rather a term used to describe symptoms that affect thinking, memory, and behavior. The types of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

There are a range of conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia. While many dementias are permanent, starting slowly and progressing over time, some can be reversed, such as those caused by a brain tumor, fluid on the brain, thyroid problems, and vitamin deficiencies, making early diagnosis vital.

Early signs of dementia

Although those with dementia often have measurable brain changes before they show symptoms, in most cases, the changes appear very slowly. That’s why it’s so easy to mistake the signs of dementia for normal aging. However, normal aging may include forgetting details of a long past conversation, occasionally forgetting things or having difficulties with word-finding, or struggling to recall an acquaintance’s name from time to time; it doesn’t undermine the ability to function or live independently.

On the other hand, the following symptoms should serve as potential early warning signs:

  • Frequently having difficulty remembering words, confusing pronouns, or slow and effortful speech.
  • Changes in word comprehension or reading.
  • Asking for the same information several times.
  • Memory loss that undermines daily function or quality of life, like forgetting the way home, paying bills, or turning off the stove.
  • Difficulties with problem-solving and planning, like following a recipe, managing money, or getting from one place to another
  • Temporospatial confusion, such as thinking they live in an earlier time or different location.
  • Forgetting loved ones, confusing loved ones, or repeatedly forgetting a loved one’s name.
  • Difficulties with vision, abstract representations, or spatial relationships like understanding familiar signs or assessing the distance between two points.
  • Frequently losing things and being unable to retrace steps.

Changes in mood or personality, including unexplained depression, aggression, anxiety, sleep problems, and/or loss of impulse control.

Signs of poor judgment, such as giving a stranger checking account information.

Withdrawing from hobbies, social functions, or family.

Next steps for dementia diagnosis

If you’re unsure whether the symptoms you observe in your loved one are normal aging or something more, encourage them to get an evaluation from their physician in Hillsborough Township. If it’s not dementia, you can both rest easy. But if it is, being proactive gives your loved one more treatment options and can help you both better plan for the future.

How can you best support your loved one? Remember that dementia is a progressive disease, and in the early stages, your loved one will likely still be mostly independent. So initially, you’ll want to tend to your loved one’s emotional needs and process your own, as this is no doubt a devastating diagnosis for your family. Reassure your loved one that you will work together, that you will honor their wishes as best you can, and consider a dementia support group or psychotherapist in Hillsborough Township to help you both cope. Although it may seem counterintuitive, it’s vital to continue taking care of yourself so you can be the best advocate for your loved one’s care.

To learn more about the stages of dementia, download our Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing the Early Signs of Dementia today.

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Written by kaplan

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