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For example, someone might get unusually sad, frightened, angry, easily upset, or lose their self-confidence and become withdrawn.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.
How Is Alzheimers Diagnosed And Treated
Doctors may ask questions about health, conduct cognitive tests, and carry out standard medical tests to determine whether to diagnose a person with Alzheimers disease. If a doctor thinks a person may have Alzheimers, they may refer the person to a specialist, such as a neurologist, for further assessment. Specialists may conduct additional tests, such as brain scans or lab tests of spinal fluid, to help make a diagnosis. These tests measure signs of the disease, such as changes in brain size or levels of certain proteins.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimers, though there are several medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can help manage some symptoms of the disease along with coping strategies to manage behavioral symptoms. In 2021, FDA provided accelerated approval for a new medication, aducanumab, that targets the protein beta-amyloid, which accumulates abnormally in the brains of people with Alzheimers. The new medication helps to reduce amyloid deposits, but has not yet been shown to affect clinical symptoms or outcomes, such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia.
Most medicines work best for people in the early or middle stages of Alzheimers. Researchers are exploring other drug therapies and nondrug interventions to delay or prevent the disease as well as treat its symptoms.
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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How Is Alzheimers Disease Treated
Medical management can improve quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimers disease and for their caregivers. There is currently no known cure for Alzheimers disease. Treatment addresses several areas:
- Helping people maintain brain health.
- Managing behavioral symptoms.
- Slowing or delaying symptoms of the disease.
Encourage Them To See Their Doctor
If youve noticed that someone close to you is showing symptoms of dementia, its important to encourage them to see their doctor to talk through whats been going on.
Talking to someone about changes youve noticed in them can be difficult. It can help to have the conversation in a space where both of you are comfortable, are able to hear each other clearly and speak freely. Health Direct recommends starting the conversation by talking about what youve noticed and the other common reasons this might be happening. For example, you might say youve noticed the person has had trouble with their memory recently, and ask if theyve been stressed or not sleeping well. Then you can suggest that its time to see a doctor to find out whats happening.
If you dont have a close relationship with the person, you might talk to someone who knows them well about what youve noticed, see if theyve noticed the same things and ask them to bring it up with the person.
If a person remains resistant to following up about changes in their memory or behaviour, Dementia Australia recommends finding a different, physical reason to encourage the person to see the doctor, like an overall physical check-up, a blood pressure test or diabetes check. You can see more suggestions on what to do if the person you are concerned about does not want to see their doctor on the Dementia Australia website.
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Measure Volume In The Brain
An MRI can provide the ability to view the brain with 3D imaging. It can measure the size and amount of cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that typically shows atrophy during the course of Alzheimer’s disease. The hippocampus is responsible for accessing memory which is often one of the first functions to noticeably decline in Alzheimer’s.
An MRI of someone with Alzheimer’s disease may also show parietal atrophy. The parietal lobe of the brain is located in the upper back portion of the brain and is responsible for several different functions including visual perception, ordering and calculation, and the sense of our body’s location.
Most People With Alzheimers Dont Know They Have It
Since it is a gradually progressing disease and affects the memory, most people who develop Alzheimers slip into it so gradually they do not notice it happening. Some who do know, also may be embarrassed, angry or in denial, which sometimes requires a real gentle and warm approach to helping them with their home care needs. In one moment, they will remember their loved ones and even call them by name but after that they slip back into the fogginess of the disease. Moments of clarity appear and disappear within a flash at a time.
Sometimes they have flashes of awareness but only for a split moment and then they are back to being forgetful. This explains why Alzheimers patients tend to wander off and get lost.
Alzheimers patients see the world differently than normal human beings. Differently does not mean lesser in any manner.
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What Are The Stages Of Alzheimers
Alzheimers disease slowly gets worse over time. People with this disease progress at different rates and in several stages. Symptoms may get worse and then improve, but until an effective treatment for the disease itself is found, the persons ability will continue to decline over the course of the disease.
Early-stage Alzheimers is when a person begins to experience memory loss and other cognitive difficulties, though the symptoms appear gradual to the person and their family. Alzheimers disease is often diagnosed at this stage.
During middle-stage Alzheimers, damage occurs in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. People at this stage may have more confusion and trouble recognizing family and friends.
In late-stage Alzheimers, a person cannot communicate, is completely dependent on others for care, and may be in bed most or all the time as the body shuts down.
How long a person can live with Alzheimers disease varies. A person may live as few as three or four years if he or she is older than 80 when diagnosed, to as long as 10 or more years if the person is younger. Older adults with Alzheimers disease need to know their end-of-life care options and express their wishes to caregivers as early as possible after a diagnosis, before their thinking and speaking abilities fail.
What Is Dementia And What Causes It
Dementia is a syndrome that causes a person to develop difficulty and problems with their memory or their ability to think. Unlike the normal changes that happen in a persons memory and thinking over time, dementia affects someones ability to function in their daily life activities and their normal routine .There are different causes of dementia. These causes are typically underlying neurological conditions . One common cause of dementia is Alzheimers disease. Other causes include diseases that impact brain blood vessels. For example, strokes may cause what is commonly termed Vascular Dementia. Some causes include Lewy Body Disease and Parkinsons disease.
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 Alzheimer’s Association research shows that the average person lives for four to eight years after a diagnosis of dementia. It’s 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.
Can Dementia Be Diagnosed During A Single Visit
So can dementia be diagnosed during a single visit? As you can see from above, it depends on how much information is easily available at that visit. It also depends on the symptoms and circumstances of the older adult being evaluated.
Memory clinics are more likely to provide a diagnosis during the visit, or shortly afterwards. Thats because they usually request a lot of relevant medical information ahead of time, send the patient for tests if needed, and interview the patient and informers extensively during the visit.
But in the primary care setting, and in my own geriatric consultations, I find that clinicians need more than one visit to diagnose dementia or probable dementia. Thats because we usually need to order tests, request past medical records for review, and gather more information from the people who know the senior being evaluated. Its a bit like a detectives investigation!
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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.
What Are The Signs Of Dementia
Most age-related memory problems are not signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but evidence of a slowdown in the brain’s processing speed that increases the time it takes to retrieve information. As we age, our ability to divide our attention among more than one task or bits of information also declines, which can interfere with storing new memories.
While you may be able to chalk off a few memory lapses to normal aging, there are some common warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If you or someone you love is experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, talk to a doctor.
Trouble remembering things. At first, only short-term memory may be affected, with long-term memory issues developing later. People may forget an appointment or the name of a new acquaintance. Many people complain of memory loss but can provide considerable detail regarding incidents of forgetfulness, such as where they were at the time. However, acknowledging memory loss only if asked and being unable to recall specific instances when they were unable to remember something can be a sign of dementia.
Trouble completing ordinary tasks. Simple tasks that once caused no difficulty may become much more challenging. For example, forgetting how to use the oven, lock the door, or get dressed can be signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Impaired judgment. The individual might have trouble making decisions, solving problems, or planning.For example, he may no longer be able to balance a checkbook or pay bills.
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Is It Alzheimers Or Another Form Of Dementia
While Alzheimers and dementia are related, they are still very different diseases. While they resemble each other in many ways, there are still distinct mental and physical differences that make them two very different beings. While it is usually a straightforward task for a physician to determine whether someone has dementia, the cause is not always easy to pinpoint. According to the Alzheimers Association, memory loss can be caused by a number of treatable conditions, such as:
- Brain tumors
- Thyroid problems
- Vitamin deficiencies
As well as by other dementia-causing illnesses. Vascular dementia, for instance, is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimers, but it is more likely to present itself in impaired judgment than in the memory loss characteristic of Alzheimers disease.
Once it is determined whether someone has Alzheimers or dementia the treatments can be very different.
How Doctors Test For Alzheimers
It is imperative to have your parent or senior loved ones get an appropriate medical evaluation if they show any of the above warning signs.
If the condition is treatable, then they may not need to worry about Alzheimers at all. If they do have Alzheimers and dementia or another dementia-causing condition, a timely diagnosis can help you plan for the future.
Has knowledge of these early Alzheimers warning signs helped you get a family member the care they need? Share your story in the comments below.
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Early Warning Signs And Diagnosis
Alzheimers Disease can be caught in the early stageswhen the best treatments are availableby watching for telltale warning signs. If you recognize the warning signs in yourself or a loved one, make an appointment to see your physician right away. Brain imaging technology can diagnose Alzheimers early, improving the opportunities for symptom management.
Can Dementia Suddenly Get Worse
The progression of dementia depends on the underlying disease. Some diseases have a rapid progression. Others progress more slowly. Any sudden change with either slow or rapid progression should be evaluated for another cause. In most cases, changes with dementia may seem like they came out of the blue when they actually may have been slowly developing in the background. The best way to prepare for changes and manage expectations is through information. Your doctor and medical team will be a valuable resource. There are a variety of educational resources that are also available through the Alzheimer’s Association.
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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.
How Is Alzheimers Disease Diagnosed
Talk to a doctor if you or a loved one is finding it increasingly difficult to perform day-to-day tasks, or if you or a loved one is experiencing increased memory loss. They may refer you to a doctor who specializes in AD.
Theyll conduct a medical exam and a neurological exam to aid in the diagnosis. They may also choose to complete an imaging test of your brain. They can only make a diagnosis after the medical evaluation is completed.
Theres no cure for AD at this time. The symptoms of AD can sometimes be treated with medications meant to help improve memory loss or decrease sleeping difficulties.
Research is still being done on possible alternative treatments.
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Are Alzheimers Patients Aware
Alzheimers patients are only moderately aware of their surroundings in the early stages on the disease but as the disease continues to progress, they become more unaware and can even become mute and uncommunicative. In the final stages of the disease, caregivers and loved ones struggle wonder about how much the patient is aware of and whether they are offering any comfort.
Every Alzheimers patient is different and a patient may be able to understand their surroundings at some level. He or she can do that by simply picking up on their caregivers body language or mood. Sometimes a patient may have an inexplicable moment of clarity when they will seemingly come out of their walled-off state and momentarily return to a state similar to their pre-dementia personality.
What Causes Dementia To Progress So Quickly
Dementia symptoms are typically mild at first and progress over time to moderate and then severe, over several years. The speed as which dementia progresses varies between individuals, but some factors can cause dementia to progress more quickly. These include the persons age, the type of dementia, and other long term health problems. Dementia tends to progress more slowly in people over 65 compared to younger people below 65.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Alzheimers
Memory problems are often one of the first signs of Alzheimers. Symptoms vary from person to person, and may include problems with:
- Word-finding, or having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age.
- Vision and spatial issues, like awareness of the space around them.
- Impaired reasoning or judgment, which can impact decisions.
Other symptoms may be changes in the persons behavior, including:
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks.
- Repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Wandering and getting lost.
- Losing things or misplacing them in odd places.
- Mood and personality changes.
- Increased anxiety and/or aggression.