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How To Know If Someone Has Dementia

General Care And Support

How do you know if you or someone else has dementia?

If you care for or know someone who is living with dementia, it can make you feel frustrated and helpless. Its important to have people around who take time to build empathy and trust, and help provide a safe and predictable environment. Your emotional and physical support will be a great help to the person when the world seems confusing and hostile.

In some cases, its helpful to make changes to a persons home environment to help them feel less disoriented . Visit Health Victorias website for some ideas on creating ‘dementia-friendly environments’.

How To Recognize Early Dementia Symptoms

The Alzheimers Association identifies 10 early signs and symptoms of dementia that can help Alzheimers experts and medical professionals diagnose dementia earlier:

  • Challenges in planning or problem-solving.
  • Changes in mood and personality.
  • Confusion with place or time.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  • Misplacing objects.
  • Trouble understanding spatial relationships and visual images.
  • Withdrawal from social activities.
  • Diagnosing Alzheimers and related forms of dementia early may allow someone experiencing the symptoms access to new drug trials, giving them a broader treatment plan with more options. Additionally, an early diagnosis can help you and your family plan financially and legally for your future.

    Early Signs Of Dementia Checklist

    Signs of early onset dementia usually affect people in their 50s and early 60s. But is it really a dementia sign or is it just a something we do as we get older?

    Signs of Dementia/Alzheimers:
    Making a bad decision once in a while
    Inability to manage a budgetMissing a monthly payment
    Losing track of the date or the seasonForgetting what day it is and remembering later
    Difficulty having a conversationSometimes forgetting which word to use
    Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find themLosing things from time to time

    As dementia is a progressive neurological disorder, there are many stages and dementia symptoms. The changes are gradual, and this may give your parent time to receive an early diagnosis and to slow down or prevent the disease from progressing.

    Fortunately, the first signs of dementia can be spotted before the symptoms make a big impact on day-to-day living and overall quality of life. For more information on the various stages of dementia, download our free and comprehensive dementia guide.

    Sometimes dementia diagnosis can be difficult as there is no one simple test to carry out and early symptoms can be similar to the age-related changes listed above. Here are 10 early signs of Dementia to look out for.

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    Who Can Diagnose Dementia

    Visiting a primary care doctor is often the first step for people who are experiencing changes in thinking, movement, or behavior. However, neurologists doctors who specialize in disorders of the brain and nervous system are often consulted to diagnose dementia. Geriatric psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and geriatricians may also be able to diagnose dementia. Your doctor can help you find a specialist.

    If a specialist cannot be found in your community, contact the nearest medical school neurology department for a referral. A medical school hospital also may have a dementia clinic that provides expert evaluation. You can also visit the Alzheimers Disease Research Centers directory to see if there is an NIA-funded center near you. These centers can help with obtaining a diagnosis and medical management of conditions.

    Identifying The Stages Of Alzheimers

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  • 1Watch for mild decline stages. The early stages of Alzheimers may see only a minor decline in cognition or change in personality. It will be more difficult to decisively determine the person has Alzheimers but there are still some basic signs to look for. Ultimately, youll need a CTE scan from a doctor to confirm.XTrustworthy SourceAlzheimer’s AssociationNonprofit organizaton focused on supporting those affected by Alzheimer’s and promoting research on the diseaseGo to source
  • Look for a tendency to fumble over words, trouble remembering names, gaps in short-term memory, and trouble organizing thoughts.
  • 2Look for moderate decline stages. The middle stages of Alzheimers usually last the longest and will require some level of assistance to care for the person. Periods of anger, odd behavior, and changes in their hygiene or appearance usually occur. Their forgetfulness will likely start to extend from short-term memory into longer-term aspects of their personal history. There may also be troubles with bladder and bowel control.XTrustworthy SourceMayo ClinicEducational website from one of the world’s leading hospitalsGo to source
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    Difficulty Speaking And Maintaining Conversations

    People with dementia can have trouble remembering the right word for things. They may struggle with their vocabulary, which can make it difficult understanding what they mean.

    Youll also notice that theyll repeat themselves or lose their train of thought during conversations. Because of this, many people dont speak as often or wont try and join in conversations.

    Its also hard for people with dementia to understand how to join in on others conversations, since they cant follow the topic easily or understand what people are saying.

    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.

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    Paranoia Delusion And Hallucinations

    Distortions of reality, such as paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations, can be another result of the disease process in dementia. Not everyone with dementia develops these symptoms, but they can make dementia much more difficult to handle.

    Lewy body dementia, in particular, increases the likelihood of delusions and hallucinations, although they can occur in all types of dementia.

    Signs Of Vascular Dementia

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    If you or the people around you notice any of the signs below, you should visit your GP:

    • Not being able to understand or respond to things very quickly.
    • Not being able to remember things.
    • Finding it difficult to concentrate.
    • Not being able to find the right word when youre speaking.
    • Struggling to plan ahead for everyday tasks.
    • Difficulty in learning new tasks
    • Seeming down or depressed.

    At a later stage, signs may include:

    • Becoming confused.
    • Behaving differently, especially if youre being aggressive or behaving inappropriately.
    • Lacking motivation.
    • Not being able to control your emotions.
    • Finding it difficult to walk and keep your balance.
    • Having problems controlling your bladder.

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    Know Your Dementia Risk And Reduce It

    The three most important risk factors for Alzheimer’ are age, family history and genetics. Research has also found the following information:

    • Most individuals with Alzheimers disease are 65 and older.
    • One in nine people in that age group and nearly one-third of people aged 85 and older have Alzheimers.
    • People with a parent, brother or sister with Alzheimers are more likely to develop Alzheimers. The risk increases if multiple family members have the disease.
    • Scientists have determined certain genes make some people more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. This is one risk factor and not a cause of Alzheimers.
    • Research also indicates that older Latinos and African-Americans are more at risk for Alzheimers and other dementia. The reasons are still unclear.

    The risk of developing dementia increases with conditions that damage the heart and blood vessels, like heart disease, diabetes and stroke. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can also increase risk. Work with your doctor to manage and control these conditions.

    How To Diagnose Alzheimers Vs Dementia

    Alzheimers is a progressive and fatal brain disorder. Dementia is not a specific disease, but an umbrella term that defines a syndrome and used to refer to a specific group of symptoms related to a decline in mental ability. Alzheimers is one of the most common causes of dementia. Both Alzheimers and dementia are diagnosed using a variety of different assessments and tests, including a physical exam, lab tests, cognitive and neuropsychological tests, and an analysis of changes in behavior.

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    When Do Dementia Patients Stop Eating

    When a patient stops or refuses to eat, things can be very depressing for the caregiver. Drinking and eating are complex and have to do with a control center that is within the brain, which controls the muscles in the throat and neck area.

    Dementia affects this part of the brain as it progresses and things like choking, coughing, grimacing as one swallows, clearing the throat, movements that are exaggerated, especially of the tongue and mouth, refusing to swallow, and spitting the food can be seen. This usually happens in the later stages of the disease.

    Think Through Who Should Have The Conversation

    How do I know if someone I love has Dementia?

    Is there a certain family member or close friend who can positively influence your loved one? Consider asking that person to be with you or have the conversation privately.

    Have you had a tough conversation with a parent about dementia symptoms? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments below.

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    How Can You Help A Loved One Who Has Dementia

    There are many things you can do to help your loved one be safe at home. For example, get rid of throw rugs, and put handrails in washrooms to help prevent falls. Post reminder notes around the house. Put a list of important phone numbers by the telephone. You also can help your loved one stay active. Play cards or board games, and take walks.

    Work with your loved one to make decisions about the future before dementia gets worse. Encourage your loved one to make an advance care plan that states how he or she wants to be treated when the dementia gets worse. And have your loved one name a person who will make care decisions if he or she is no longer able to make them .

    Watching a loved one slip away can be sad and scary. Caring for someone with dementia can leave you feeling drained. Be sure to take care of yourself and to give yourself breaks. Ask family members to share the load, or get other help.

    Your loved one will need more and more care as dementia gets worse. In time, he or she may need help to eat, get dressed, or use the washroom. You may be able to give this care at home, or you may want to think about using a nursing home. A nursing home can give this kind of care 24 hours a day. The time may come when a nursing home is the best choice.

    You are not alone. Many people have loved ones with dementia. Ask your doctor about local support groups, or search the Internet for online support groups, such as the Alzheimer Society of Canada. Help is available.

    What Are The Different Types Of Dementia

    Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia. Neurodegenerative disorders result in a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and brain functioning. Currently, there are no cures for these diseases.

    The five most common forms of dementia are:

    • Alzheimers disease, the most common dementia diagnosis among older adults. It is caused by changes in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins, known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
    • Frontotemporal dementia, a rare form of dementia that tends to occur in people younger than 60. It is associated with abnormal amounts or forms of the proteins tau and TDP-43.
    • Lewy body dementia, a form of dementia caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.
    • Vascular dementia, a form of dementia caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain or interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
    • Mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types of dementia.

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    What Are The Symptoms

    Usually the first symptom is memory loss. Often the person who has a memory problem doesn’t notice it, but family and friends do. As dementia gets worse:

    • You may have more trouble doing things that take planning, like making a list and going shopping.
    • You may have trouble using or understanding words.
    • You may get lost in places you know well.

    Over time, people with dementia may begin to act very differently. They may become scared and strike out at others, or they may become clingy and childlike. They may stop brushing their teeth or bathing.

    Later, they cannot take care of themselves. They may not know where they are. They may not know their loved ones when they see them.

    Moving To A Care Home

    How do you tell someone they have Dementia?

    If the persons needs become too great for you to manage at home, you may need to consider other long-term options. If youre becoming exhausted or the person with dementia is becoming harder to care for, a care home can be the best option for you both.

    A move to a care home can be a difficult decision, but there are limits to the care you can provide.

    If the person you care for is moving into a care home, familiar furniture, belongings or music can help them feel more settled.

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    Dementia Terms You May Hear

    • Alzheimers disease: the most common type of dementia, caused by clumps of proteins building up in the brain.
    • Mild cognitive impairment: this can happen after a stroke. This is when someone has memory and thinking problems but they are not severe enough to interfere with their day-to-day activities.
    • Other types of dementia: you may hear about dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and young-onset dementia, as well as other rarer types.
    • Small vessel disease: damage to the blood vessels deep inside the brain, often caused by high blood pressure.
    • Vascular cognitive impairment: this describes all memory and thinking problems associated with stroke. It includes vascular dementia and mild cognitive impairment.
    • Vascular dementia: problems with memory and thinking due to reduced blood flow in your brain.

    Discussing Dementia Symptoms With Dr Alex Bailey

    In a new episode of the Age Space Podcast, we talk to Dr Alex Bailey, an old age psychiatrist working in Westminster, sharing his thoughts and advice on dementia. This includes identifying the early signs of dementia, details of memory services, supporting those with dementia to live well, psychological therapies, supporting carers and much more. Listen to the dementia explained podcast.

    What to read next…

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    Repetitive Speech Or Actions

    People with dementia will often repeat a word, statement, question, or activity over and over. While this type of behavior is usually harmless for the person with dementia, it can be annoying and stressful to caregivers. Sometimes the behavior is triggered by anxiety, boredom, fear, or environmental factors.

    • Provide plenty of reassurance and comfort, both in words and in touch.
    • Try distracting with a snack or activity.
    • Avoid reminding them that they just asked the same question. Try ignoring the behavior or question, and instead try refocusing the person into an activity such as singing or âhelpingâ you with a chore.
    • Donât discuss plans with a confused person until immediately prior to an event.
    • You may want to try placing a sign on the kitchen table, such as, âDinner is at 6:30â or âLois comes home at 5:00â to remove anxiety and uncertainty about anticipated events.
    • Learn to recognize certain behaviors. An agitated state or pulling at clothing, for example, could indicate a need to use the bathroom.

    How Is Dementia Diagnosed

    What is Dementia?

    To diagnose dementia, doctors first assess whether a person has an underlying, potentially treatable, condition that may relate to cognitive difficulties. A physical exam to measure blood pressure and other vital signs, as well as laboratory tests of blood and other fluids to check levels of various chemicals, hormones, and vitamins, can help uncover or rule out possible causes of symptoms.

    A review of a persons medical and family history can provide important clues about risk for dementia. Typical questions might include asking about whether dementia runs in the family, how and when symptoms began, changes in behavior and personality, and if the person is taking certain medications that might cause or worsen symptoms.

    The following procedures also may be used to diagnose dementia:

  • Psychiatric evaluation. This evaluation will help determine if depression or another mental health condition is causing or contributing to a person’s symptoms.
  • Genetic tests. Some dementias are caused by a persons genes. In these cases, a genetic test can help people know if they are at risk for dementia. It is important to talk with a genetic counselor before and after getting tested, along with family members and the doctor.
  • Early detection of symptoms is important, as some causes can be treated. However, in many cases, the cause of dementia is unknown and cannot be treated. Still, obtaining an early diagnosis can help with managing the condition and planning ahead.

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    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.

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