Frequently Asked Questions About Dementia Symptoms
My dad seems to be tired all the time lately how do I know the difference between age-related changes and dementia symptoms?
Sleep disruption is common with regards to both age-related sleep patterns and signs of early onset dementia so it can be tricky to work out whats going on. But if you look out for accompanying symptoms specific to dementia you may be able to tell the difference. If you suspect it is more than just sleepiness make an appointment with your parents GP.For more information on how dementia symptoms can affect sleep please read our article on dementia and sleep.
What do I do if I think my mum or dad has dementia?
The GP should be the first point of call if you suspect your parent is suffering from signs of early onset dementia. If the doctor suspects your parent has dementia they will refer them to a memory clinic or specialist. For further details on the process please visit our guide on diagnosing dementia.
How does the dementia diagnosis process work?How are dementia symptoms treated?
Unfortunately, dementia cant be cured but it can be slowed down significantly, especially if diagnosed earlier on. For more details on drugs used, visit our guide on dementia treatment.
What Are The Risk Factors For Frontotemporal Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia has one known risk factor: genetics. Scientists have found several genes related to the disease. If one of your family members is diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, you have a greater risk.
However, not everyone with a family history will develop a problem. Its also estimated that more than half of the individuals diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia dont have a family history associated with the disease.
Doctors cant diagnose frontotemporal dementia with a single test. Instead, your doctors will try to rule out other conditions or diseases that cause similar symptoms.
Some of the tests used to diagnose frontotemporal dementia include:
- blood tests: These can help identify other possible causes.
- neuropsychological testing: These tests check your judgment and memory skills, and help determine what type of dementia you may have.
- brain imaging: Doctors will check for tumors or blood clots.
- MRI: A magnetic resonance imaging test gives doctors a detailed image of your brain.
- CT scan: A computerized tomography scan creates images of your brain in layers.
Frontotemporal dementia cannot be cured. Treatment is aimed at managing and alleviating symptoms.
Common treatments include:
When Can We Spot Dementia
Some people report very early signs of dementia decades before diagnosis . These include loss of smell in people with Lewy body dementia, progressive trouble remembering names of people and items, consistent loss of daily items such as keys, changes in gait , and trouble comprehending learned information from books and reading materials .
It is important to remember that all brains are different and some people are just more forgetful than others. A new and progressive change in memory function or forgetfulness may indicate very early stages of dementia or another brain health issue. A change in cognitive function or ability to complete daily tasks should be checked by a neurologist.
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Lewy Bodies: The Culprit In Some Cases
Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of a protein called alpha-synuclein.
In healthy brains, this protein appears to help neurons function effectively. The prevailing theory is that dementia occurs when Lewy bodies accumulate inside neurons in the brain, interfering with their ability to work effectively and ultimate causing them to die.
Lewy bodies also alter brain chemistry, distorting thinking, movement, behavior, and mood.
There are actually two types of dementia in which Lewy bodies are seen in the brain: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinsons disease dementia. Over time people with either kind of dementia may develop similar symptoms.
Affected brain regions include these areas:
- The cerebral cortex, involved with information processing, perception, thought, and language
- The limbic cortex, involved with emotions and behavior
- The hippocampus, involved with creating new memories
- The midbrain, including the substantia nigra, involved with movement
- The brain stem, involved with sleep and alertness
- Brain regions involved with recognizing smells
Symptoms of Lewy body dementia can include the following:
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Youre Not Moving As Well As Usual
Difficulties with movement and performing physical activities in the right sequence can be an early sign of damage to the parietal lobe, which is related to motor skillsand this is one of the signs that Eva thinks she overlooked in her husband. Three years before his diagnosis, the couple began to participate in dragon-boat racing. Chow had always been a well-coordinated athlete and handyman, but during training he struggled to learn the basic stroke technique. The coach kept telling him, This is the way you do it. Steve didnt get it very well, and he was upset with the coach, says Eva.
Motor problems are also common with Lewy body dementia, but other neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinsons and multiple sclerosis, should be considered, as well.
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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.
Having A Hard Time With Talking And/or Writing
The individual has difficulty joining or following a conversation, and starting one. They also increasingly forget common words while talking or writing. They start replacing these words with general terms, like thing. For example, What are you doing on that thing in your hands? when they are referring to your phone.
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Know The Signs Of Dementia
Early diagnosis can help people with dementia plan for the future, and might mean they can access interventions that help slow down the disease. Being familiar with the signs of dementia can help people receive a diagnosis as early as possible.
Early signs that a person might have dementia can include:
- being vague in everyday conversations
- memory loss that affects day-to-day function
- short term memory loss
- difficulty performing everyday tasks and taking longer to do routine tasks
- losing enthusiasm or interest in regular activities
- difficulties in thinking or saying the right words
- changes in personality or behaviour
- finding it difficult to follow instructions
- finding it difficult to follow stories
- increased emotional unpredictability.
What If I Have Early Signs Of Dementia
If you are having serious dementia-like symptoms, the path to improving your brain health lies in addressing some of the root causes of cognitive decline.
Always check with your health professional if you experience a change in your ability to complete everyday tasks to rule out any possibility of stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other acute injury to the brain. If you are not struggling with any of those issues, some of the most common problems that lead to cognitive decline are related to the brain/gut axis or even the brain liver axis.
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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.
Vascular Dementia: Early Signs And Symptoms
Vascular dementia occurs when blocked or damaged blood vessels in the brain deprive brain cells of the oxygen and vital nutrients they need. It is the second most common cause of dementia, after Alzheimers, accounting for an estimated 10 percent of all cases.
In the past, doctors used a diagnosis of vascular dementia to rule out Alzheimers, and vice versa. Now theres increasing awareness that both forms of dementia often coexist, a condition called mixed dementia.
Symptoms of vascular dementia may be most pronounced immediately after a person has a stroke that blocks a major blood vessel in the brain. These sudden changes can include these symptoms:
- Difficulty speaking or comprehending speech
- Loss of vision
Repeated small strokes or other damage to smaller blood vessels in the brain can lead to more subtle impairments that worsen over time. These symptoms can include the following:
- Difficulty making judgments and planning
- Uncontrolled laughing and crying
- Increasing inability to focus mentally
- Difficulty functioning in social situations
- Trouble finding the right words
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How Is Dementia Diagnosed
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:
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.
Problems Speaking Or Writing
In the early stages of dementia, it can be difficult for your loved one to follow conversations. You may observe your loved one stopping in the middle of a conversation with no idea how to continue.
They may also struggle to find the right words. We all forget words from time to time and eventually remember them. People with dementia often cannot retrieve the word even after trying many times. Your loved one may also begin to repeat sentences within a conversation or say the same thing repeatedly in a short period of time.
What You Might Notice: Youve called your dad up to let him know about your plans for Christmas. He sounds agreeable but as you are saying goodbye he says, When are the kids coming for Easter? I need to buy somesomebox wrapping.
How You Can Help: If you know what they are trying to say, dont correct. Just agree and calmly provide the needed word. If they repeat themselves, remember that they are not aware of it. Listen and then continue the conversation in a different direction.
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Disorientation In Time And Place
We all sometimes forget the day of the week or where we are going momentarily but people with dementia can become lost in familiar places such as the road they live in, forget where they are or how they got there, and not know how to get back home. Someone who has dementia may also confuse night and day.
Becoming Confused In Familiar Surroundings
This is different to: getting confused about the day of the week but working it out later.
Your parent may forget where they are and how they got there. Along with losing track of dates, seasons and the time this is one of the most tell-tale signs of early onset dementia.
They may also struggle to understand something if its not happening immediately. This is because the mind of someone with dementia is mostly situated in the present and they find it difficult to comprehend the passage of time.
For example, your mum may tell you shes missed you because she thinks she hasnt seen you in a long time, but in reality you visited her last week. Another example includes time passing very slowly in a general sense: ten minutes might seem like an hour, an hour might seem like a day and so on.
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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 budget||Missing a monthly payment|
|Losing track of the date or the season||Forgetting what day it is and remembering later|
|Difficulty having a conversation||Sometimes forgetting which word to use|
|Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them||Losing 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.
What Are The Early Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia
Dementia may produce a group of signs and symptoms that become more severe over time. Some doctors believe that the early warning signs and stages include a decline in memory, counting, and reasoning and language abilities. However, early signs of Alzheimers may be first noticed by a family member or other person.
Potential early warning signs and symptoms of dementia include:
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Loss Of Daily Life Skills
A home that may not be as well kept as usual may be a sign that the person living there has dementia. They may lose the ability to do many of the things they normally do themselves, such as preparing meals, household chores and eating and drinking properly.
They may also struggle to maintain their personal hygiene and getting dressed. Deciding what to wear, how to put things on and in the right order may become increasingly difficult. Getting around the house without walking into furniture and other items may also be a problem.
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.
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Increased Forgetfulness And Inability To Concentrate
Stages two and three often begin with a slight increase in forgetfulness and/or decreased ability to concentrate. These symptoms are often overlooked in the earliest stages since folks of all ages can be prone to absentmindedness during times of stress. In addition to memory challenges, trailing off during conversation or struggling to follow the plot of books or movies are signs that mild cognitive decline may be occurring. While an occasional lapse of memory or moment of confusion is nothing to worry about, repeated instances of these symptoms may be worth further examination by a medical professional.
Cognitive And Neurological Issues
A person experiencing early-stage dementia may be unable to handle tasks that require problem-solving. Common tasks include:
- Managing a budget
- Completing a crossword puzzle
- Learning a new game
These tasks may take longer than they used to and require more energy, leaving the person feeling mentally and physically exhausted.
Remember, these signs of early dementia are often quite similar to typical signs of aging among people who do not have dementia. The difference is in how frequently they occur, and the seriousness of the decline. If you notice problems every now and again that seem to resolve themselves quickly, theres probably nothing to worry about. If the issues come up more frequently over time, however, you may want to consider getting a physicians opinion.
People exhibiting the very early signs of dementia are prone to poor judgment. A worrying behavior could be making large purchases without consulting their spouse when they wouldnt have in the past. Some people may also develop poor habits around self-hygiene and housekeeping.
Poor judgment can lead to dire outcomes, so this is a symptom that needs prompt attention. Some people with dementia may lose their ability to judge whether an activity is safe, including activities that could cause physical injury.
Occasional moments of confusion can be a typical sign of aging. However, it is atypical to experience these moments regularly.
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