The word dementia describes conditions that cause cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. People with one of these conditions tend to have difficulties with memory, decision making, and thinking. They may also struggle performing activities of daily living.
An estimated 5.8 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s or related dementia. That demographic includes 5.6 million adults who are over age 65. This is a condition that affects senior citizens more than any other age group.
Unfortunately, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to rise to 14 million by 2060.
You may be at a higher risk of dementia based on your health status and family history. Minority populations are most affected. Hispanic people are expected to increase seven times over the current estimate while African American cases will increase four times.
Women are almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men, primarily because they tend to live longer.
Even if you don’t have an increased risk due to genetics or other factors, you should still know the early signs of dementia. Catching the condition sooner will help patients live safer and healthier.
- Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
Occasionally, a person may have difficulty doing something that they do every day. This isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm but should be monitored. Dementia can make it hard to complete tasks that you have performed many times before.
This can begin to affect basic activities that are necessary to live, like forgetting to eat a meal. If you or a loved one frequently have trouble doing familiar things, it’s time to see a doctor.
Even if your loved one doesn’t say they are having difficulties, you can look for signs. For example, a person with dementia may lose weight because they forget to eat. They may also show signs of poor personal hygiene because they forget to bathe or groom.
If you see these changes, do not ignore them. They should be addressed before they become a health risk.
- Noticeable Memory Loss and Forgetfulness
Memory loss is one of the most well-known symptoms of dementia. Alzheimer’s and similar diseases damage the parts of the brain that are needed for memory recall. Seniors with one of these conditions may forget day-to-day things like a friend’s name, appointments, or phone numbers. They often struggle to retain new information.
An inability to remember can affect how a person functions. The symptom will worsen as the disease progresses, making it harder to store and retrieve memories.
- Disinterest and a Loss of Initiative
Everyone has days when they feel a lack of motivation. This is a normal part of life. However, dementia patients may show a consistent loss of initiative. They may seem disinterested in socializing and life in general.
Dementia can also cause patients to withdraw. They may need prompting to interact with others or the world around them. They may also seem uninterested in things that they used to care about, like hobbies, religion, and other people.
- Trouble with Abstract Thinking
Abstract thinking refers to the brain’s ability to consider concepts beyond what’s observed in front of us. It requires pattern recognition, analysis, and problem solving.
Dementia can hinder a person’s ability to use abstract thinking. They may have difficulty doing things like balancing a checkbook or using a calculator. Their ability to understand numbers and their uses can become impaired.
- Changes in Language and Word Misuse
Dementia can affect a person’s ability to use language. Early signs may appear as word misuse and difficulty communicating. The patient may not know how to express their thoughts or use the wrong words in sentences.
Simple words can be forgotten and replaced with other words, which makes it difficult to understand what a person with dementia is saying.
Changes in language should never be ignored. A medical evaluation should be done as soon as possible.
- Frequently Losing or Misplacing Belongings
The average person has misplaced or lost items at least once in their life. Most have done this more than once. However, it shouldn’t be a frequent problem.
Cognitive decline can cause a person to forget where to find their belongings. They may put things back in the wrong place, making it harder to locate what they need later. This often involves everyday items like a purse or wallet.
Missing items may be left in illogical places. For example, a dementia patient may mistakenly put their watch in the freezer.
- Inability to Process Spatial and Visual Information
Seniors with dementia may notice an inability to accurately process spatial and visual information. They may have trouble navigating areas or interacting with objects. For example, a dementia patient may have a hard time setting a mug on a table.
It’s important to note that this change may not be dementia-related. Vision impairment can have a similar effect. If you or a loved one notice issues like this, you should make an appointment with a doctor and an ophthalmologist. Seniors are advised to get regular vision screenings, anyway, so covering all bases is recommended.
- Becoming Lost in Time or Location
It isn’t unusual to occasionally forget the day of the week or the time. However, seniors with dementia notice significant disorientation. They may get lost in familiar places, like their own home or walking up their street.
Even if it’s a place that they spend a lot of time in or have visited many times before, they can become lost and not know where to go. This is dangerous for seniors who are alone because they can wander distances or end up in hazardous places.
- Risky Behavior and Poor Decision Making
A healthy senior mind can weigh risks and make good decisions. Older adults with dementia begin to lose this ability.
They may take risks that they normally would not take. Their decision-making can be impaired, which makes them vulnerable to fraud and criminal activity.
A senior with dementia may not recognize when they need care or attention. They may not go to the doctor when they are sick or injured. They may also not dress appropriately for outdoor conditions, like wearing a winter coat on a hot summer day or going out in a snowstorm without adequate clothing.
- Unexplained Change in Personality
Severe mood swings are a sign of dementia. Most people have good and bad days when they feel sad, angry, or otherwise down.
People with dementia may show noticeable changes in personality and mood. They can swing from calmness to anger or depression quickly and for no explainable reason.
Assisted living communities offer a safe senior housing option for adults with dementia. Visit Vista Living Senior Care to learn more about our memory care services.