Dementia is often seen as a terrible disease that attacks everyone after they pass a certain age, completely ruining your life.
Actually, this is very far from true, and it’s important to get rid of the stigma that surrounds these symptoms. Yes, symptoms, because dementia isn’t actually a disease – it’s an umbrella term for an array of symptoms and illnesses that have to do with memory and cognitive abilities.
It is most certainly not something that awaits everyone and while there is no cure, you can still live a happy and healthy life if properly managed.
But that includes spotting dementia at its earliest stages, and for that, you need to know the first signs:
1. Memory problems
Of course, one of the primary issues with dementia is memory loss. This may or may not be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, but you need to keep an eye out for it either way.
Loss of memory is actually the reason for a lot of other symptoms we will be mentioning, but let’s first see the basics: losing memories.
In the beginning, you will probably spot more problems with short-term memory, like forgetting what someone said, not recalling recent events, etc.
This is because these memories don’t get stored at all and can’t be recalled. When the problem progresses, people might find it hard to recall past events because their long-term memory is affected.
These memories can sometimes be jogged by pictures, videos, sounds and even smells, but they are usually difficult to recall on command.
2. Speech issues
Another very common symptom of dementia is trouble with speech. This might seem unrelated to memory, but every word we know is stored somewhere in our brain, and if we can’t recall it, we can’t use it.
This can go two ways: on the one hand, people might have trouble remembering words, even if they know their definition. You can notice this when they stop in the middle of a sentence, replace words with less adequate synonyms or speak in a much simpler way.
On the other hand, they might know the words, but be unable to recall their meaning. This is mostly spotted when a person with dementia is listening to someone or watching TV.
It can be hard to spot, so look for changes in facial expression or completely ignoring one part of the dialogue.
Did you ever walk into a room and forgot why you went in there? Don’t worry, if it happened just a few times in your life, you probably don’t have dementia, but for people who do have it, this can be a lot more serious.
They could walk in the middle of the street, forgetting where they are, or walk to a completely unknown part of the city and get lost. By forgetting local monuments and buildings, they could literally get lost in their own neighborhood.
This is why dementia care facilities like NewDirection Care are crucial for the well-being of people with dementia. They create entire neighborhoods or towns where people can live freely, interacting with friends, family and peers, while at the same time getting constant care that they need.
There are stereotypes about these facilities that they are a place where people are left behind and unloved, but it is actually very often the best and healthiest place for them to be, especially if their loved ones don’t have time to care for them around the clock.
4. Mood swings
If reading through all of these symptoms made you feel uneasy or frustrated, imagine how it would be actually living with them.
People with dementia are very aware of their disease, and most often they hide it from those around them in fear of being stigmatized or rejected.
Knowing that there are things you can’t remember can cause a person to become angry, sad or completely irrational. This is why mood swings are a very common occurrence for people with dementia, and they could be the easiest way to spot the early signs.
When someone abruptly ends a conversation, gets frustrated just sitting in a chair, thinking about something or starts to generally change their behavior, it can be a sign of dementia.
Look for signs of shutting in, avoiding conversation or social events and simply isolating oneself, and make sure you don’t let the ones you love become lonely, because the more they are alone, the faster their dementia can progress from the lack of memory stimuli from their surroundings.
It’s important to remember that none of these symptoms on their own actually means that you have dementia, and you should never self-diagnose.
However, if you notice these signs in yourself or a loved one, visiting a doctor to get an expert opinion is the best thing to do.
Don’t forget that having dementia isn’t the end of the world, and as long as you are in a safe environment, you can live a long and healthy life.