Telltale Signs Somebody You Love Has Dementia
Dementia is perhaps one of the most tragic diseases that can befall a person. Slowly losing cognitive functions strips people of their personalities and renders them unable to carry out even the most basic of life’s tasks.
Therefore, people who love the affected individual need to be on the lookout for the telltale sins of the condition. The earlier you catch it, the more you can do to prevent it from progressing rapidly.
Interestingly, the disease actually starts many years before symptoms become evident in the way a person behaves. Tiny plaques begin to infiltrate the brain tissue, making it more difficult for one part to talk to the other. Eventually, the tissue becomes so engorged with these blockages that the person doesn’t have the raw computing power they need to form their thoughts or remember what you tell them.
When diagnosing somebody with dementia, you need to be careful not to confuse the condition with the general human tendency to do stupid things. Teenagers misbehave all the time, yet we wouldn’t automatically conclude that they had Alzheimer’s. There are often other explanations for why people do the things they do.
So with those caveats out of the way, what are the signs that somebody you love has dementia? How can you tell?
Withdrawing From Social Activities
Social activities tend to lose their appeal as dementia advances. As people lose cognitive function, the draw of interpersonal interactions fades. It’s no longer something from which they can derive satisfaction or enjoyment. It seems pointless.
If somebody you know suddenly stops going to church or weekly events, then take note. They could just be going through a bad phase, or they could be experiencing a severe medical problem.
Issues With Mood And Personality
People with dementia can often experience rapid changes in their mood and personality. Usually, it’s not their fault. Instead, it’s just what happens when plaque in the brain causes it to misfire. Information can’t get from one side to the other, so the personality starts to fragment. Different pieces of it emerge periodically, and often unexpectedly.
Sudden changes in mood can be either positive or negative. If you notice something out of the ordinary, take note, and look for similar instances in the future.
Difficulty Remembering Misplaced Items
Finding it hard to remember where they put items is a common sign of dementia that doctors look for in patients. The disease tends to attack the brain’s short-term memory centers before it moves on to other regions.
Forgetting where you put your keys is something that affects a large proportion of the population at some point in their lives. But if it keeps happening, then that is a reason for concern.
Think carefully about instances where a person you love has repeatedly forgotten where they put something. If they’re always hunting around for things, it could be because they simply lack the cognitive resources to remember.
Difficulty Planning New Things
Some of the signs of the onset of dementia are incredibly subtle. Often, you can gather evidence for the condition by looking at what a person is not doing.
If somebody you love used to plan out their weekends in meticulous detail but has stopped doing that, it could be a sign that they’re starting to develop the condition. Dementia attacks the brain’s capacity to plan for the future and solve problems. Thus, affected people will often fail to see the point of planning.
Trouble With Speaking
Trouble with speaking can occur in dementia patients. Usually, it is a sign that the disease is advancing beyond the initial stages.
Most people have something called “cognitive reserve” that they can call upon in the early stages of the disease. The idea here is that highly intelligent people have more connected, robust, and sophisticated networks in their brains. If plaque is blocking communication along one channel, the brain can switch to another.
However, speech problems suggest that the damage is already quite advanced, to the point where somebody can’t do something they’ve had no problem doing their entire lives.
Missing Financial Payments
Dementia can also make it more difficult for people to keep up with their finances. It’s not that they lack funds in the bank. It’s just that paying bills is a considerable organizational challenge, and often they lack the cognitive resources.
If you notice payment demands piling up, it could sign that something is going wrong. Talk to the person concerned about why they’re receiving final payment notices and requests. If they look troubled or confused and have plenty of money, their condition may have caused it to slip their minds.
Forgetting Words Occasionally
Some people find work recall difficult their whole lives, but many do not. If you notice the person you love struggling to find the right word when usually they wouldn’t take note. Dementia can affect the language centers of the brain, making it challenging for the affected person to deploy the actual word they want to use.
They’ll often struggle for a while, even though you’ve had the word they’re trying to find in your head for ages. Please take note of how common the term is when they eventually find it. If it’s something that they use all the time, such as their children’s names, then that is a serious cause for concern and a sign that they may need senior care.
Problems With Vision
Dementia tends to affect pockets of the brain at different rates. How it develops, therefore, depends very much on the biology of the individual. For some people, problems crop up first in the senses, not in language processing. If vision suddenly starts to fail or become difficult to interpret, it may suggest that there are problems with this particular area.
Problems Playing Musical Instruments
The playing of musical instruments relies on training the unconscious mind to follow specific patterns. Eventually, the brain just picks it up, like driving, talking, or riding a bike.
Dementia, however, can undermine even unconscious learnings. Thus, playing instruments becomes more difficult. The affected person may find it hard to play at a standard they enjoyed in their youth consistently. The timing and notes might be off the mark – and the personality they usually put into their music may be lacking.
Taking Longer Than Normal With Familiar Tasks
Taking longer than usual with familiar tasks is a good indication that something is wrong. If the affected person invites you around for dinner but spends most of the day cooking and washing up for no good reason, that’s a sign that they’re struggling. The brain typically puts these tasks on autopilot. But when there are limits to cognitive resources, it suddenly becomes more difficult even to do simple things.
Be on the lookout too for problems with tying shoelaces. Tying a shoelace is incredibly challenging and something that children typically learn by rote when young. When the brain starts to fail, the cognitive structures that make it possible become bunged up with plaque, and problems can begin.
Accepting that somebody you love has dementia is never a pleasant or comfortable experience. You want to believe that people in your life are healthy and will always retain their personalities. The good news is that you can interrupt the process now and start slowing down the disease’s progression. Some patients with certain types of dementia can actually experience a reversal of symptoms with the correct interventions. Most can slow the condition considerably, helping to extend their independence.