What is Dementia?
Dementia is not the name of a disease, it is a broad term used to describe a variety of symptoms related to declining mental ability. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease and the second most common type of dementia, resulting after a stroke, is called Vascular dementia. To learn more about either of these visit Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet or About Vascular Dementia.
What are the Signs of Dementia?
Recognizing when a loved one has some form of dementia can be extremely difficult, as the symptoms tend to vary greatly and there are other conditions and situations that can cause or mimic similar symptoms. Suffice to say, if you are inclined to read on, chances are you’ve noticed some changes in the mental ability of a loved one, and are wisely seeking information to help you understand the nature of the problem you are dealing with and what you can expect.
It might be helpful to begin by reviewing the signs of dementia below. Bear in mind that some mental decline is common with aging. It is also worth noting that some mental impairment is related to treatable conditions such as depression, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies and chronic stress. See What’s Causing Your Memory Loss?
When assessing the possibility that your loved one is experiencing dementia, look for some of the signs below:
- Memory loss – especially new information
- Difficulty finding words – misnaming – misunderstanding
- Time confusion, getting lost, missing appointments
- Poor judgement – no making usual calls
- Trouble with problem solving and reasoning
- Difficulty doing familiar tasks like driving or managing money or meds
- Misplacing things – putting things in odd places
- Change in mood and behaviour
- Personality changes
- Isolation – withdrawal from regular activities
Normal Mental Decline vs Dementia
While serious or rapid mental decline is not considered a ‘normal’ part of aging, clearly there are some changes in a person that are typically associated with aging. For instance, as we get older we might occasionally miss an appointment, mix up directions, misplace items, or become less inclined to socialize. To assess what is considered age appropriate memory loss versus a more concerning condition, visit: Understanding Dementia or Assessing Cognitive Impairment.
The Importance of Early Detection
If you or a loved one is experiencing memory challenges or other changes in your mental ability, it’s important that you share your concerns with your doctor or home care. A professional assessment may uncover a treatable or even reversible condition. If not, if the symptoms suggest that what you are dealing with is some form of dementia, diagnosing it as early as possible will allow you to take advantage of any treatment that is available and give you the option to volunteer for studies or clinical trials. It also enables caregivers, family members and loved ones to anticipate and plan for the future as well as seek support.