What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia
Signs and symptoms of dementia result when once-healthy neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die. While everyone loses some neurons as they age, people with dementia experience far greater loss.
The symptoms of dementia can vary and may include:
- Experiencing memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion
- Difficulty speaking, understanding and expressing thoughts, or reading and writing
- Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
- Trouble handling money responsibly and paying bills
- Repeating questions
- Not caring about other peoples feelings
- Losing balance and problems with movement
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities can also develop dementia as they age, and recognizing their symptoms can be particularly difficult. Its important to consider a persons current abilities and to monitor for changes over time that could signal dementia.
Disproportionate Impact On Women
Globally, dementia has a disproportionate impact on women. Sixty-five percent of total deaths due to dementia are women, and disability-adjusted life years due to dementia are roughly 60% higher in women than in men. Additionally, women provide the majority of informal care for people living with dementia, accounting for 70% of carer hours.
What Are Early Dementia Signs And Symptoms
Dementia affects each person differently, in varying degrees and at different rates. Individuals usually need to experience two or more symptoms that dramatically interfere with their daily life to receive a dementia diagnosis. However, if you notice one or more signs of dementia in someone you love, schedule an appointment with a doctor who can make a complete assessment.
Six early warning symptoms of dementia may include:
- Forgetting things recently learned, important dates, names or other important information
- Asking the same question or repeating the same story over and over
- Getting lost in familiar places Inability to backtrack or retrace steps
- Unable to follow directions or stay on task
- Becoming confused about time, people and places
- Neglecting personal safety, hygiene and nutrition
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Coping And Communication Strategies:
- Dont take it personally: Anosognosia can cause the person with dementia to say hurtful things. As a difficult as it can be, try to remember that it is the disease talking and dont take it personally.
- Is it safe or unsafe?: Before you intervene, ask yourself if what the person is doing is unsafe. If its not unsafe, you can decide not to intervene.
- Connect with their emotions, rather than reasoning: You cannot reason with someone who has anosognosia, so as tempting as it can be, dont try and convince the person with dementia to see things from your perspective. Instead, try and connect with the persons emotions.
- Check your emotions first: If the person with dementia is about to engage in an activity that puts their safety at risk, be aware of your own emotions. Take a moment to regulate yourself before you engage.
- Agree, stretch the truth, and distract: For example, if the person with dementia is angry that they cannot drive, empathize with their anger , say the car is in the shop for repairs , and suggest an activity you know they would enjoy .
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease
Seeing a person exhibit dementia symptoms can be baffling and scary which may bring up the question do people with dementia know they have it?
It is important to note that this neurodegenerative disease affects people differently.
The fact, however, is that dementia is a progressive illness that destroys brain cells over time.
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S For Communicating With Someone With Dementia
- Keep yourself in the persons eyeline, and try not to suddenly appear from the side or from behind
- Speak clearly and in short sentences
- If the person is struggling to recognise you, introduce yourself and tell them about the connection between you, for instance: Hello mum, its Julie and I have little Danny, your grandson with me.
- Be reassuring look the person in the eye and smile
- If a person with dementia is getting agitated, take yourself to another room for a few minutes before coming back in, calmly, and saying something like: Hello, Im back now, how lovely to see you.
- Try not to correct the person if they get your name wrong or say something that isnt true this can lead to distress and frustration on all sides. Try to imagine how the person with dementia is feeling
Remember, not being recognised does not mean you are totally forgotten.
How To Talk To Someone You Think Has Signs Of Dementia
Talking about memory loss, and the possibility of dementia, can be difficult. Someone who is experiencing these symptoms may be confused, unaware they have any problems, worried, or struggling to accept their condition.
Before starting a conversation with someone you’re concerned about, the Alzheimer’s Society suggests you ask yourself:
- has the person noticed their symptoms?
- do they think their problems are just a natural part of ageing?
- are they scared about what their symptoms could mean for their future?
- do they think there will not be any point in seeking help?
- are you the best person to talk to them about memory problems?
When you do talk to them, choose a place that is familiar and not threatening. Also, allow plenty of time so the conversation is not rushed.
The Alzheimer’s Society has more tips on how to talk to someone about memory problems.
If the person does not want to see a GP, many UK dementia charities offer support and advice from specialist nurses or advisers, such as:
- Alzheimer’s Society’s national helpline: or email:
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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.
How Long Do Dementia Patients Live After Diagnosis
Dementia symptoms typically progress slowly. People with dementia will progress from mild to severe dementia at varying speeds and may be diagnosed earlier or later in life. Some people with dementia may live for up to 20 years after their diagnosis, though according to the Alzheimers Association research shows that the average person lives for four to eight years after a diagnosis of dementia. Its important to point out that the diagnosis of dementia is often missed, delayed, or diagnosed when the illness is moderate or advanced. The impact of that variable may not be accurately reflected in the research regarding the years of life post-diagnosis.
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What Is Mixed Dementia
It is common for people with dementia to have more than one form of dementia. For example, many people with dementia have both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
Researchers who have conducted autopsy studies have looked at the brains of people who had dementia, and have suggested that most people age 80 and older probably have mixed dementia caused by a combination of brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease,vascular disease-related processes, or another condition that involves the loss of nerve cell function or structure and nerve cell death .
Scientists are investigating how the underlying disease processes in mixed dementia start and influence each other. Further knowledge gains in this area will help researchers better understand these conditions and develop more personalized prevention and treatment strategies.
Other conditions that cause dementia-like symptoms can be halted or even reversed with treatment. For example, normal pressure hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, often resolves with treatment.
In addition, medical conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and delirium can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia, as can side effects of certain medicines.
Researchers have also identified many other conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms. These conditions include:
How To Spot Early Indicators That Your Loved One May Have Alzheimers Or Dementia
by Patrick J. Kiger, AARP, Updated September 27, 2021
En español | From age 50 on, its not unusual to have occasional trouble finding the right word or remembering where you put things.
But persistent difficulty with memory, cognition and ability to perform everyday tasks might be signs that something more serious is happening to a loved ones brain.
Dementia isnt actually a disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Its a catch-all term for changes in the brain that cause a loss of functioning that interferes with daily life. Dementia can diminish focus, the ability to pay attention, language skills, problem-solving and visual perception. It also can make it difficult for a person to control his or her emotions and lead to personality changes.
More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s dementia, according to the “2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” report fromthe Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia, accounting for 60 percent to 70 percent of cases, but a range of brain illnesses can lead to the condition .
Diseases that cause dementia
These conditions are the leading causes of dementia. Many patients have mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types, such as Alzheimers and vascular dementia.
Lewy body dementia. Abnormal protein deposits in the brain, called Lewy bodies, affect brain chemistry and lead to problems with behavior, mood, movement and thinking.
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Where To Find Help
When your loved one is displaying troubling symptoms, a trip to a primary care physician is often the first step. But to get a definitive diagnosis, youll need to see a specialist such as a neurologist, geriatrician or geriatric psychiatrist.
If you cant find one, the National Institute on Aging recommends contacting the neurology department of a nearby medical school. Some hospitals also have clinics that focus on dementia.
Ailments can mimic dementia
When A Person Doesnt Accept Their Diagnosis Of Dementia
Every person who is diagnosed with dementia will react to the news in their own way. Many people find it difficult to come to terms with, or adjust to, a diagnosis of dementia. Some people may feel that nothing is wrong and not recognise that they are experiencing any problems.
Others may acknowledge that they are having difficulties doing certain things but believe this is due to a reason other than dementia. For example, they might say their memory loss is because they are getting older. They may avoid talking about their condition by changing the subject if someone mentions it.
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The Majority Of People With Dementia Dont Know They Have It
These are people who can refuse to take medicine, or insist that they can go to work or the store even when it is not safe to do so.
For such a group, if you ask the question do people with dementia know they have it, the answer will be a resounding no.
This is, however, not to state that every single person with the illness does not know they have it.
Some individuals may actually know depending on the stage dementia is diagnosed.
Developing dementia can be a stressful time for the affected person.
One day they might be living their lives normally and the next they can only recognize their family or friends without perhaps remembering their name among an array of other symptoms.
At this point, a person might think that they are experiencing normal forgetfulness that mostly happens as humans grow older but it may not be the case.
For this reason, it is important to seek medical advice when you suspect that there is something wrong with your health.
This will help get the proper diagnosis to know how to deal with the conditions heads on.
Symptoms Specific To Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies has many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and people with the condition typically also experience:
- periods of being alert or drowsy, or fluctuating levels of confusion
- visual hallucinations
- becoming slower in their physical movements
- repeated falls and fainting
Read more about dementia with Lewy bodies.
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What We Know About Dementia
The National Institute on Aging says that dementia affects approximately 3.4 million Americans, or 13.9 percent, of the U.S. population ages 71 and older and is usually caused by brain damage associated with Alzheimers disease, vascular dementia or Parkinsons disease. And in Canada, the number of people living with dementia is expected to rise 66% by the time we reach 2031.
It is important to differentiate the various types of dementia for about 70% of patients, a diagnosis of dementia will be accompanied by a diagnosis of Alzheimers disease. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, Alzheimers and dementia are not one in the same. Dementia is a loss of brain function that refers to a group of illnesses.
Although dementia may be a symptom of Alzheimers, it may have other underlying causes, such as Picks disease, hypothyroidism or head trauma. While Alzheimers is the leading cause of dementia, vascular dementia, which is often caused by stroke, accounts for about 17% of all dementia cases.
While people will experience dementia differently, most people with dementia share some of the same symptoms that may come and go.
Do They Know They Have Alzheimers
Seeing a loved one develop Alzheimers or dementia can be scary and confusing. Their behaviors can be misunderstood or not make sense to you. Red Johnson, an 86 year-old living with Alzheimers, explained to his daughter, Nancy, how it feels to live with the disease.
I love my family. My daughter-in-law and son-in-law my grandchildren and great-grandchildren my in-laws and my nieces and nephews. I might not remember their names. I might be tongue tied when I try to talk with them. But, I still love them. Do you know how dumb it feels when you know the person talking with you is an old friend and you cant remember their name? I know something is wrong with me, and I hate it. Dont look through me just because I cant remember your name or am mixed up about what day it is. Dont ignore my needs because you think it doesnt matter. Red
Reds story is a great insight into how it feels to know you are suffering from memory problems and how painful it can be. Read the full story on alz.com.
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As A Care Worker How Can You Help
There are many conditions and circumstances where you may see signs and symptoms that may be confused with dementia. As a care worker, it is not your responsibility to try to diagnose the condition. However, as you may be the one person who sees the individual on a regular basis, you are well placed to notice any changes. Encouraging an older person to visit their GP on a regular basis can help them to maintain their general health and wellbeing.
Impact On Families And Carers
In 2019, informal carers spent on average 5 hours per day providing care for people living with dementia. This can be overwhelming . Physical, emotional and financial pressures can cause great stress to families and carers, and support is required from the health, social, financial and legal systems. Fifty percent of the global cost of dementia is attributed to informal care.
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Dementia Denial And Lack Of Insight
When a person is diagnosed with dementia they may not understand or accept their diagnosis. They may also have limited or no awareness of their symptoms and the difficulties they are having, even when these are obvious to those around them.
This may be because the person is in denial, or because they have what is known as lack of insight. In either case, it will be harder to talk to the person about their dementia and how to support them.
When Most People Hear The Word Dementia They Think Of Memory Loss
And it does often start by affecting the short-term memory. Someone with dementia might repeat themselves and have problems recalling things that happened recently. But dementia can also affect the way people think, speak, perceive things, feel and behave.
Other common symptoms include:
- problems planning and thinking things through
- struggling with familiar daily tasks, like following a recipe or using a bank card
- issues with language and communication, for example trouble remembering the right word or keeping up with a conversation
- problems judging distances
- mood changes and difficulties controlling emotions. For example, someone might get unusually sad, frightened, angry, easily upset, or lose their self-confidence and become withdrawn.
Symptoms of dementia gradually get worse over time. How quickly this happens varies from person to person and some people stay independent for years.
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