Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that causes loss of memory, language skills, and ultimately the ability to function independently. (Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of the condition.) The biggest risk factor for dementia is simply getting older. It’s important to be alert to early signs of the disorder, so a diagnosis can be made and treatment can begin as soon as possible. These are some of the early signs of dementia, according to doctors. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
“This may include a person forgetting what they had for breakfast, forgetting where they left an item, or having a hard time remembering why they entered a certain room,” says Dr. Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist in Greenwich, Connecticut.
A common early sign of dementia is the impaired ability to communicate, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A person with dementia might have trouble finding the right words or finishing sentences. They might use substitutes or talk around words they’re unable to remember.
Personality or mood changes are a common but frequently misinterpreted early sign of dementia. A person with early dementia may become apathetic or lose interest in hobbies and spending time with friends and family, becoming emotionally flat, says Schiff. Family members might attribute these changes to stress or being in a funk.
A person with dementia may begin having trouble with reading, writing, or complicated mental tasks like balancing a checkbook, following directions, or making calculations. Familiar tasks, like paying bills or cooking frequently used recipes, may become difficult. “As memory problems pick up, the individual with early dementia will leave tasks incomplete, avoid complex games and projects and give up the financial management (like the checkbook) to a spouse or partner,” says Dr. Thomas C. Hammond, a neurologist with Baptist Health’s Marcus Neuroscience Institute in Boca Raton, Florida.
“Individuals affected by dementia are very likely to show repetitive behavior,” says Dr. Mark Davis, a physician with Pacific Analytics. “This includes asking or answering the same question several times, repeating their instructions and talking about the same incident multiple times.”
“People with dementia start avoiding socializing even if it comes to their favorite social activities,” says Davis. “They may become indifferent to other people at work and even within their homes. They’re least concerned about what others are talking about or doing. Similarly, they may stop doing things that were once added to their favorite to-do list.”
“This is where false memories are created, but without the intention to deceive,” says Schiff. “The individual is not able to recognize that what they are saying is fabricated, and they sincerely believe what they are saying is accurate and genuine. Confabulation is typically a coping response to the cognitive changes one is experiencing.”
“Memory problems and forgetfulness don’t automatically mean you have dementia,” says Schiff. “These are normal parts of aging and can be caused by other factors, but you shouldn’t ignore the symptoms. If you have any of the symptoms associated with dementia, and they are not improving, it’s important to see your doctor so they can rule out other causes for your symptoms and determine whether it is dementia or another cognitive problem. With early diagnosis and treatment, you can slow the progression of dementia and maintain your mental function.”
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