When To Seek Medical Care If You Think You Or Someone You Know May Have Dementia
A person affected with dementia may not be aware he or she has a problem. Most people with dementia are brought to medical attention by a caring relative or friend. Any of the following warrant a visit to the person’s health care professional.
- Behavior or personality changes
- Persistent or frequent poor judgment
- Persistent or frequent confusion or disorientation, especially in familiar situations
- Inability to manage personal finances
Dementia Signs And Symptoms
A long list of symptoms is associated with dementia, but many overlap with other health conditions, meaning that having some of them does not confirm that an individual is cognitively impaired.
That said, dont hesitate to consult a healthcare provider if you or a loved one is showing signs of dementia, which can be cognitive or psychological in nature:
- Trouble remembering new information
- Exhibiting signs of paranoia
- Exercising poor judgment
Not everyone will notice these symptoms right away, and a checklist alone cant determine if a person has a dementia-related disorder. In fact, not even a test can do so.
Difficulty Finding The Right Words
Another early symptom of dementia is struggling to communicate thoughts. A person with dementia may have difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be difficult, and it may take longer than usual to conclude.
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Managing Accusations And Dementia
A person with dementia may make accusations against people around them, including their family, friends and carers. The most common accusations are that others are trying to steal from them or harm them. They may also accuse their partner of being unfaithful, or of being an impostor.
Being falsely accused can obviously be distressing.
- Try not to take it personally when the person falsely accuses you.
- Consider that a person may have confused the past and present, so accusations may be based on things that have happened in the past.
- Dont try to argue with or correct the person. What they think has happened feels real to them. Acknowledge their feelings and offer them reassurance.
- Try to find the reason behind the accusation. If, for example, a person is accusing someone of stealing something, is it because that person has forgotten where they put it?
- If the person is accusing someone else of something, dont automatically assume it is untrue. If its possible, look into whether its true or not.
Dementia In Elderly Parents: Find Hope For Memory Care At Commonwise
Knowing how to tell if a parent has dementia can give you the confidence to approach the symptoms with strength and knowledge. If youve been saying, I think my mother has dementia what should I do? look for these tell-tale signs:
- Unexplained memory loss
- Confusion with time or place
- Difficulty following a set of steps
- Inability to perform complex tasks
- Misplacing things
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Could Paranoia Or Delusions Be A Sign Of Delirium
If paranoia or delusions are a new behavior for your loved one or someone youre caring for, consider the possibility that she might be experiencing delirium. Delirium is a sudden change in thinking and orientation, usually quite reversible, brought on by a physical condition such as an infection, surgery or other illness.
What Causes Delusions
A person with dementia may be unable to put bits of information and memories together correctly, which can lead them to draw false conclusions and believe something that isnt true.
It is more likely that a person will have delusions over time as their dementia gets worse.
Delusions are more common in dementia with Lewy bodies, and can affect people with Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia, particularly in the later stages. They are less common in people with frontotemporal dementia.
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When To See A Doctor
Forgetfulness and memory problems dont automatically point to dementia. These are normal parts of aging and can also occur due to other factors, such as fatigue. Still, you shouldnt ignore the symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing a number of dementia symptoms that arent improving, talk with a doctor.
They can refer you to a neurologist who can examine you or your loved ones physical and mental health and determine whether the symptoms result from dementia or another cognitive problem. The doctor may order:
- a complete series of memory and mental tests
- a neurological exam
- brain imaging tests
If youre concerned about your forgetfulness and dont already have a neurologist, you can view doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, but it can also affect younger people. Early onset of the disease can begin when people are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. With treatment and early diagnosis, you can slow the progression of the disease and maintain mental function. The treatments may include medications, cognitive training, and therapy.
Possible causes of dementia include:
Unable To Follow A Set Of Steps
The early signs of dementia in parents often include being unable to follow a series of steps, such as following a recipe or folding laundry.
As dementia progresses, it may be challenging for your parents to complete everyday activities that were once second nature. Skipping steps or forgetting how to do a common task is a key behavior indicator to watch for when wondering, Does my mother have dementia?
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Coping With Hallucinations In Elderly Dementia Patients
When it comes to handling a seniors hallucinations, Marion Somers, Ph.D., author of Elder Care Made Easier: Doctor Marions 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One, suggests joining them in their version of reality. Ask the dementia patient about what they are experiencing as if it is real so you can more effectively defuse the situation. Refrain from trying to explain that what they are seeing or hearing is all in their head. Otherwise, youre going to aggravate them, and you dont want to increase the level of agitation, Somers advises.
Reassure them by validating their feelings. Say something like, I see that youre upset. I would be upset if I saw those things, too. Tell them that they are safe with you and you will do everything in your power to help them feel secure.
A comforting touch, such as gently patting their back, may help the person turn their attention to you and reduce the hallucination, according to the Alzheimers Association. You also can suggest that they move to a different room or take a walk to get away from whatever may have triggered the experience.
Hallucinations arent just a symptom of Alzheimers disease, either they are also very common in seniors with Lewy body dementia. Furthermore, poor eyesight, hearing loss, certain medications, dehydration and urinary tract infections can all contribute to hallucinations.
Early Symptoms Of Dementia
Dementia is a collection of symptoms that can occur due to a variety of possible diseases. Dementia symptoms include impairments in thought, communication, and memory.
If you or your loved one is experiencing memory problems, dont immediately conclude that its dementia. A person needs to have at least two types of impairment that significantly interfere with everyday life to receive a dementia diagnosis.
In addition to difficulty remembering, the person may also experience impairments in:
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Difficulty Completing Normal Tasks
A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks may indicate that someone has early dementia. This usually starts with difficulty doing more complex tasks like balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules.
Along with the struggle to complete familiar tasks, they may struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.
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
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Where To Get Help
- Your local community health centre
- National Dementia Helpline Dementia Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
- Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
- My Aged Care 1800 200 422
- Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- Commonwealth Carelink and Respite Centres Australian Government Tel. 1800 052 222
- Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers
Struggling To Adapt To Change
For someone in the early stages of dementia, the experience can cause fear. Suddenly, they cant remember people they know or follow what others are saying. They cant remember why they went to the store, and they get lost on the way home.
Because of this, they might crave routine and be afraid to try new experiences. Difficulty adapting to change is also a typical symptom of early dementia.
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Can Dementia Be Prevented
No known way to prevent irreversible dementia or even many types of reversible dementia exists. The following may help prevent certain types of dementia:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, moderate use of alcohol, and no smoking or substance abuse
- Taking precautions to prevent infections
- Using protective equipment such as a seat belt or motorcycle helmet to prevent head injury
The following may allow early treatment and at least partial reversal of dementia:
- Being alert for symptoms and signs that suggest dementia
- Early recognition of underlying medical conditions, such as hypoxia, HIV infection, low glucose levels, or low sodium levels
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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The Difference Between Hallucinations And Delusions
Hallucinations, delusions and paranoia are symptoms of disease and not a normal part of aging. While they may seem similar, they are actually very different.
Hallucinations are false sensory experiences that can be visual, auditory and/or tactile. These fleeting misperceptions cannot be corrected by telling a patient that theyre not real. Examples include a dementia patient hearing music when none is playing or seeing bugs that arent there.
Delusions are fixed false beliefs that are not supported by reality. They are often caused by a faulty memory. For example, a dementia patient may firmly believe they are much younger than they are, that they need to go home despite already being home, or that someone they know well has been replaced by an imposter .
Paranoia is rooted in feelings of suspicion and fear. Lapses in memory are frustrating and disorienting, often causing dementia patients to exhibit paranoid behaviors. Both hallucinations and delusions can be paranoid in nature. Examples of paranoid delusions include a senior believing that their caregiver has stolen from them, been unfaithful to them or tried to physically harm them.
Support Groups And Counseling For Caregivers
Caring for a person with dementia can be very difficult. It affects every aspect of your life, including family relationships, work, financial status, social life, and physical and mental health. You may feel unable to cope with the demands of caring for a dependent, difficult relative. Besides the sadness of seeing the effects of your loved one’s disease, you may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, resentful, and angry. These feelings may, in turn, leave you feeling guilty, ashamed, and anxious. Depression in caregivers is not uncommon.
Different caregivers have different thresholds for tolerating these challenges. For many caregivers, just “venting” or talking about the frustrations of caregiving can be enormously helpful. Others need more but may feel uneasy about asking for the help they need. One thing is certain, though: If the caregiver is given no relief, he or she can burn out, develop his or her own mental and physical problems, and become unable to care for the person with dementia.
This is why support groups were invented. Support groups are groups of people who have lived through the same set of difficult experiences and want to help themselves and others by sharing coping strategies. Mental health professionals strongly recommend that family caregivers take part in support groups. Support groups serve a number of different purposes for a person living with the extreme stressof being a caregiver for a person with dementia.
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Talking With A Doctor
After considering the persons symptoms and ordering screening tests, the doctor may offer a preliminary diagnosis or refer the person to a Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinic, neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist.Some people may be resistant to the idea of visiting a doctor. In some cases, people do not realise, or else they deny, that there is anything wrong with them. This can be due to the brain changes of dementia that interfere with the ability to recognise or appreciate the changes occurring. Others have an insight of the changes, but may be afraid of having their fears confirmed.One of the most effective ways to overcome this problem is to find another reason for a visit to the doctor. Perhaps suggest a check-up for a symptom that the person is willing to acknowledge, such as blood pressure, or suggest a review of a long-term condition or medication.Another way is to suggest that it is time for both of you to have a physical check-up. Any expressed anxiety by the person is an excellent opportunity to suggest a visit to the doctor. Be sure to provide a lot of reassurance. A calm, caring attitude at this time can help overcome the person’s very real worries and fears.Sometimes, your friend or family member may refuse to visit the doctor to ask about their symptoms. You can take a number of actions to get support including:
- talking with other carers who may have had to deal with similar situations
- contacting your local Aged Care Assessment Team
What Is Paranoid Dementia
A person with Alzheimer’s may believe a family member is stealing his or her possessions or that he or she is being followed by the police. This kind of suspicious delusion is sometimes referred to as paranoia. Although not grounded in reality, the situation is very real to the person with dementia.
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Environment Modification & Medical Intervention
Changing the environment is another effective way to reduce or even abort an episode of delusion or hallucination. If a person imagines they see people in the window, you can open or close the curtains to modify the environment. Maintaining a well-lit space is another way to reduce fear by eliminating shadows. Some seniors may have trouble identifying themselves during an episode and will claim that a stranger is looking at them through the mirror. Covering the mirror or moving them away from it will help reduce the intensity of their episode. Many seniors who suffer from dementia will feel that people are stealing from them. In actuality, most often items have simply been lost, misplaced, or put away in a new location. Keeping duplicates of commonly lost items on hand can also help arrest an episode.
Most holistic and interactive interventions work well for seniors suffering from dementia, but there are times when medications may be the only option. A medical professional can evaluate the senior to ascertain if medication to reduce delusions and hallucinations is the best option. Seniors who suffer from separate mental illnesses like schizophrenia may be suffering from delusions and hallucinations due to that condition and not dementia.
How Do You Deal With Elderly Delusions
10 ways to respond when someone is experiencing dementia hallucinations
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How Do You Deal With Paranoia In Dementia
Here are some tips for coping with paranoia: