Common Early Symptoms Of Dementia
Different types of dementia can affect people differently, and everyone will experience symptoms in their own way.
However, there are some common early symptoms that may appear some time before a diagnosis of dementia. These include:
- memory loss
- difficulty concentrating
- finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
- struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
- being confused about time and place
- mood changes
These symptoms are often mild and may get worse only very gradually. It’s often termed “mild cognitive impairment” as the symptoms are not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia.
You might not notice these symptoms if you have them, and family and friends may not notice or take them seriously for some time. In some people, these symptoms will remain the same and not worsen. But some people with MCI will go on to develop dementia.
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. This is why it’s important to talk to a GP sooner rather than later if you’re worried about memory problems or other symptoms.
Decreased Or Poor Judgement
This is different to: making a bad decision once in a while.
Changes in decision-making or judgement might include dealing with money or paying less attention to keeping clean and groomed. This can be one of the more obvious parts of your observation list for early signs of dementia.
Look out for signs that your parent might not be looking after themselves the way they used to. They may forget to wash regularly, wear the same clothes continuously throughout the week, forget to brush their teeth, forget to brush their hair, shave or to visit the toilet.
Its vital to make sure your parent is keeping up with any regular appointments they may have. Make sure theyre keeping up with their health and hygiene routines with our guide to keeping healthy.
At What Age Can You Test Someone For The Signs Of Dementia
There is no one particular age that someone must meet before they can be assessed for signs of dementia, although dementia is more common in people over 65. Early-onset dementia can begin in people who are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Diagnosing dementia in its early stages is important as early treatment can slow the progression of symptoms and help to maintain mental functions.
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Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Some people have a condition called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. It can be an early sign of Alzheimers. But, not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimers disease. People with MCI can still take care of themselves and do their normal activities. MCI memory problems may include:
- Losing things often
- Forgetting to go to events or appointments
- Having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from MedlinePlus.
Knowing The Stages Of Dementia Helps You Plan
Even if the stages arent exact and symptoms can still be unpredictable, being able to plan ahead is essential.
The truth is that Alzheimers and dementia care is expensive and time-consuming. Being financially prepared for increasing care needs is a necessity.
On an emotional level, having an idea of what symptoms to expect helps you find ways to cope with challenging behaviors.
It also gives you a chance to mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable changes in your older adult.
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The Needs Of People Affected By Young Onset Dementia
People living with young onset dementia and their family members state that they need:
- early recognition of the signs and symptoms suggestive of dementia
- accurate and timely diagnosis
- awareness of their condition, especially from health and social care professionals
- specialist information at the time of diagnosis
- identification of a person who specialises in young onset dementia to support them and their family to work on a support plan to meet their needs
- better communication between agencies
- access to a specialist helpline
- support around employment issues
- emotional support and relationship counselling
- age-appropriate information, advice and support to stay active and maintain independence
- age-appropriate meaningful occupation and activities
- to feel connected to others
- peer support groups
- support to retain a life beyond caring
Early recognition and timely accurate diagnosis of dementia, combined with appropriate specialist support, can reduce the distress experienced by the person with young onset dementia and their family.
If you have any cause for concern, it is a good idea to make an appointment to see a doctor. Seeing a doctor early on can reduce anxiety and worry and provide you with answers.
Conditions With Symptoms Similar To Dementia
Remember that many conditions have symptoms similar to dementia, so it is important not to assume that someone has dementia just because some of the above symptoms are present. Strokes, depression, excessive long-term alcohol consumption, infections, hormonal disorders, nutritional deficiencies and brain tumours can all cause dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions can be treated.
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Signs Of Mild Alzheimers Disease
In mild Alzheimers disease, a person may seem to be healthy but has more and more trouble making sense of the world around him or her. The realization that something is wrong often comes gradually to the person and his or her family. Problems can include:
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment leading to bad decisions
- Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
- Repeating questions
- Increased sleeping
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
A common cause of death for people with Alzheimers disease is aspiration pneumonia. This type of pneumonia develops when a person cannot swallow properly and takes food or liquids into the lungs instead of air.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimers, though there are medicines that can treat the symptoms of the disease.
Is Dementia A Mental Illness
Dementia is a mental health disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association changed the name to Major Neurocognitive Disorder, which is a mouthful. The change was made in order to provide a clearer description of the problem. Whats most important to know is that dementias can involve changes to emotions, behaviors, perceptions, and movements in addition to memory and thinking.
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How Is Frontotemporal Dementia Treated
Currently, no treatments are available to cure or slow the progression of FTD, but healthcare providers may prescribe medicine to treat symptoms. Antidepressants may help treat anxiety and control obsessive-compulsive behaviors and other symptoms. Prescription sleeping aids can help ease insomnia and other sleep disturbances. Antipsychotic medicine may reduce irrational and compulsive behaviors.
Behavior modification may help control unacceptable or risky behaviors.
Speech and language pathologists and physical and occupational therapists can help adjustment to some of the changes caused by FTD.
You Can’t Remember That Restaurant’s Name
If you constantly forget what you had for breakfast, or can’t recall the name of that restaurant you just went to, consider it a red flag. “The most common sign is memory problems that interfere with your daily life,” Dr. Fillit says. “You may have trouble remembering familiar names or places on a regular basis.”
It may not seem like a big deal. But if you find yourself struggling to remember details like these, or if this has become a frustrating problem, point it out to a doctor so they can monitor the situation.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Frontotemporal Dementia
Symptoms of FTD start gradually and progress steadily, and in some cases, rapidly. They vary from person to person, depending on the areas of the brain involved. These are common symptoms:
- Behavior and/or dramatic personality changes, such as swearing, stealing, increased interest in sex, or a deterioration in personal hygiene habits
- Socially inappropriate, impulsive, or repetitive behaviors
- Impaired judgment
- Increasing dependence
Some people have physical symptoms, such as tremors, muscle spasms or weakness, rigidity, poor coordination and/or balance, or difficulty swallowing. Psychiatric symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, also may occur, although these are not as common as behavioral and language changes.
Stage : Age Associated Memory Impairment
This stage features occasional lapses of memory most frequently seen in:
- Forgetting where one has placed an object
- Forgetting names that were once very familiar
Oftentimes, this mild decline in memory is merely normal age-related cognitive decline, but it can also be one of the earliest signs of degenerative dementia. At this stage, signs are still virtually undetectable through clinical testing. Concern for early onset of dementia should arise with respect to other symptoms.
You Can’t Remember Anyone’s Name
Recalling information is another issue many people with dementia can struggle with, so consider it a red flag if you can no longer remember people’s names.
“When at a social gathering, you forget names of people you just met,” Dr. Schreiber says. Or you might not be able to remember a friend’s name when telling a story.
If you’ve always been bad with names then this shouldn’t be a cause for concern. But if you find yourself blanking on a more regular basis, it may be time to get yourself checked.
Symptoms Specific To Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia, after Alzheimer’s. Some people have both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, often called “mixed dementia”.
Symptoms of vascular dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s disease, although memory loss may not be as obvious in the early stages.
Symptoms can sometimes develop suddenly and quickly get worse, but they can also develop gradually over many months or years.
Specific symptoms can include:
- stroke-like symptoms: including muscle weakness or temporary paralysis on one side of the body
- movement problems difficulty walking or a change in the way a person walks
- thinking problems having difficulty with attention, planning and reasoning
- mood changes depression and a tendency to become more emotional
Read more about vascular dementia.
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Memory Loss That Impedes Daily Activities
The most noticeable symptom of Alzheimers disease is often memory loss. A person may start forgetting messages or recent events in a way that is unusual for them. They may repeat questions, having forgotten either the answer or the fact that they already asked.
It is not uncommon for people to forget things as they get older, but with early onset Alzheimers disease, this happens earlier in life, occurs more often, and seems out of character.
What Medications Are Available To Treat Dementia
Drugs approved for the most common form of dementia, Alzheimers disease, are discussed below. These drugs are also used to treat people with some of the other forms of dementia.
- cholinesterase inhibitors
- NMDA receptor antagonist memantine
These two classes of drugs affect different chemical processes in the brain. Both classes have been shown to provide some benefit in improving or stabilizing memory function in some patients. Although none of these drugs appear to stop the progression of the underlying disease, they may slow it down.
If other medical conditions are causing dementia or co-exist with dementia, the appropriate drugs used to treat those specific conditions are prescribed.
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Rapid And Unexplained Mood Swings And/or Depression
This is different to: more typical age-related behaviours such as becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
Mood and personality changes can be associated with early signs of dementia. This could include becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious, and your parent may find themselves getting easily upset in places they feel unsure about. Some of the dementia symptoms NHS lists include:
- Increased anxiety
- Violent mood swings
For example, your parent may appear calm, then visibly upset, and then very angry in a matter of minutes. This is a significant sign of dementia anger and frustration specifically if its unprovoked.
Other physical signs include pacing, obsessing over minor details, agitation, fear, confusion, rage and feeling overwhelmed because theyre trying to make sense of a world thats now confusing to them.
Symptoms Appear Before Age 60
Perhaps the biggest defining sign of early onset Alzheimers is the timing of the symptoms first appearing. The most common form of Alzheimers, late onset Alzheimers, typically begins showing signs when a person is in their 60s.
Early onset Alzheimers, meanwhile, can start taking effect as early as your 30s and 40s. Typically, patients are diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers in their 40s or 50s.
Dr. James Ellison of the Swank Memory Care Center at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware writes that the majority of early onset Alzheimers disease does not run in families. Some families, however, do have a genetic mutation that almost guarantees development of early onset Alzheimers.
In an interview, Dr. Ellison said that people in their 40s and 50s should not be experiencing the so-called 10 warning symptoms of Alzheimers. If they are, they may have the early onset version of the disease.
In your 40s and 50s you should not be experiencing these symptoms, Ellison said. If you know something is wrong, keep looking for doctors or others who have the knowledge to treat you.
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What Are The Complications Of Frontotemporal Dementia
FTD is not life-threatening people may live with it for years. But it can lead to an increased risk for other illnesses that can be more serious. Pneumonia is the most common cause of death, with FTD. People are also at increased risk for infections and fall-related injuries.
As FTD progressively worsens, people may engage in dangerous behaviors or be unable to care for themselves. They may need 24-hour nursing care or to stay in an assisted living facility or nursing home.
Finding A Huge Gap In Services And Supports For Younger People
âI unfortunately ran into that brick wall where I was ineligible for just about everything because of my age.â â Faye.
Most social programs and services are designed for older people with dementia. In comparison, the number of programs designed for people living with young onset dementia is sparse.
People living with young onset dementia may not find the programs intended for older adults interesting or beneficial in respect to their needs. They may not feel comfortable in a seniorsâ program. And even if they were interested and comfortable in joining a program, they might be ineligible because of their age!
We have a gap in our knowledge about young onset dementia. As a result, there simply aren’t enough information, support, financial aid and services adapted for younger people living with dementia.
However, this is changing. The Young Onset Gap Analysis Project, initiated through the National Information Support and Education Committee and the Alzheimer Society of Canada , explored the gaps of available learning and support resources for people living with young onset dementia, and sought advice and feedback from those with lived experience.
The information from this report is being used to develop new resources dedicated to education and support for people living with young onset dementia, families, caregivers and healthcare providers.
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What Is Dementia Symptoms Types And Diagnosis
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning thinking, remembering, and reasoning to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of living.
Dementia is more common as people grow older but it is not a normal part of aging. Many people live into their 90s and beyond without any signs of dementia.
There are several different forms of dementia, including Alzheimers disease. A persons symptoms can vary depending on the type.
Getting Connected To Services After Diagnosis
â said, âOh, this is great, we have a diagnosis, what do we do now? Is there a pill, orâ¦?â And this is when the doctor said: âNo, thereâs no pill, thereâs nothing that we can do at all,â and youâll have to basically âgo home, get your affairs in order because you will die from this.ââ â from Ontario. Mary Beth lives with young onset frontotemporal dementia.
Even after an accurate diagnosis is made, a younger person with dementia is still likely to face obstacles. These obstacles may start with being unable to get more information about dementia or find referral to dementia-focused programs and services in their community.
We know that many people living with dementia go on to live very fulfilling lives for quite some time. Unfortunately, due to lack of knowledge and training, some healthcare providers still seem to offer little hope or support for life after diagnosis.
However, even if their doctor is helpful and can suggest practical next steps, there is another significant obstacle for the person diagnosed with young onset dementia to overcome.
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What Are The Signs Of End
It is important for caregivers to know when an individual with dementia is close to the end of their life, because it helps ensure they receive the right amount of care at the right time. It can be difficult to know exactly when this time is due to the variable nature of dementias progression, but understanding common end-of-life symptoms of seniors with dementia can help. Below is a timeline of signs of dying in elderly people with dementia:
Final Six Months
- A diagnosis of another condition such as cancer, congestive heart failure or COPD
- An increase in hospital visits or admissions
Final Two-to-Three Months
- Speech limited to six words or less per day
- Difficulty in swallowing or choking on liquids or food
- Unable to walk or sit upright without assistance
- Hands, feet, arms and legs may be increasingly cold to the touch
- Inability to swallow
- Terminal agitation or restlessness
- An increasing amount of time asleep or drifting into unconsciousness
- Changes in breathing, including shallow breaths or periods without breathing for several seconds or up to a minute
Patients with dementia are eligible to receive hospice care if they have a diagnosis of six months or less to live if the disease progresses in a typical fashion. Once a patient begins experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is time to speak with a hospice professional about how they can help provide added care and support.