Early Symptoms Of Dementia
Although the early signs vary, common early symptoms of dementia include:
- memory problems, particularly remembering recent events
- increasing confusion
- apathy and withdrawal or depression
- loss of ability to do everyday tasks.
Sometimes, people fail to recognise that these symptoms indicate that something is wrong. They may mistakenly assume that such behaviour is a normal part of the ageing process. Symptoms may also develop gradually and go unnoticed for a long time. Also, some people may refuse to act, even when they know something is wrong.
Stage : Severe Cognitive Decline
Individuals in stage 6 often need extensive assistance to carry out their ADLs. In this stage, they may start to forget the names of close family members and have little memory of recent events. Typically, people in stage 6 can remember few details of their earlier life as well.
Other noticeable changes include physical and emotional challenges. Emotional changes are common during this stage and can sometimes include delusions, compulsions, anxiety, and agitation.
When To See A Gp
If you’re worried about your memory or think you may have dementia, it’s a good idea to see a GP.
If you’re worried about someone else’s memory problems, encourage them to make an appointment and perhaps suggest that you go along with them.
Memory problems are not just caused by dementia they can also be caused by depression, stress, medicines or other health problems.
A GP can carry out some simple checks to try to find out what the cause may be, and they can refer you to a specialist for more tests if necessary.
Read more about diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.
Page last reviewed: 05 July 2021 Next review due: 05 July 2024
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Mood And Personality Changes In Alzheimer’s
When an individual with dementia or Alzheimers disease starts displaying changes in mood or personality, its usually due to neuron loss in certain areas of the brain. Neurons are a kind of brain cell, and Alzheimers destroys brain cells. The personality changes or other symptoms are usually indicative of where the damage is occurring.1 In the early stages, the symptoms are mild and might even be seen as passing moods or situational mood disturbances; as time goes on and the disease progresses, the changes in mood and personality become more pronounced. The figure below shows brain areas associated with behavior and feelings. These brain areas, the frontal lobe and temporal lobe, become dysfunctional in Alzheimers disease.
How To Read Emotional Responses In Someone With Severe Dementia
Sadness, joy, appreciation, fearemotions of many colors still register with your loved one. The difference: its difficult now to express them. Just knowing that your loved one still experiences emotions can help make your time together more meaningful and help you improve his or her quality of life. Watch closely,Read More
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Late Or Severe Dementia
- Worsening of symptoms seen in early and intermediate dementia
- Complete dependence on others for activities of daily living
- May be unable to walk or move from place to place unassisted
- Impairment of other movements such as swallowing: Increases risk of malnutrition, choking, and aspiration
- Complete loss of short- and long-term memory: May be unable to recognize even close relatives and friends
- Complications: Dehydration, malnutrition, problems with bladder control, infections, aspiration, seizures, pressure sores, injuries from accidents or falls
The person may not be aware of these problems, especially the behavior problems. This is especially true in the later stages of dementia.
Depression in elderly people can cause dementia-like symptoms. About 40% of people with dementia are also depressed. Common symptoms of depression include depressed mood, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, withdrawal from others, sleep disturbances, weight gain or loss, suicidal thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, and loss of ability to think clearly or concentrate.
People with irreversible or untreated dementia present a slow, gradual decline in mental functions and movements over several years. Total dependence and death, often from infection, are the last stages.
Preclinical Alzheimers Or No Impairment
You may only know about your risk for Alzheimers disease due to family history. Or your doctor may identify biomarkers that indicate your risk.
Your doctor will interview you about memory problems, if youre at risk for Alzheimers. But there will be no noticeable symptoms during the first stage, which can last for years or decades.
Caregiver support: Someone in this stage is fully independent. They may not even know they have the disease.
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Experience The Difference Homewatch Caregivers Can Make
People with Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia can often experience mood swings. These episodes can be trying on their caregivers as they try to help.
The best thing that a caregiver can do to mitigate mood and behavior changes is to know and understand the individual person including history, likes and dislikes, favorite foods, music and activities, what soothes them, what upsets them, what time of day they are at their best, and so on, said Ruth Drew, Director of Family and Information Services for the Alzheimers Association. When you know the person you can organize the day so that you anticipate and avert many problems before they occur. You recognize the signs of distress early and have several methods of dealing with them.
Some of these methods include filling the day with pleasant experiences in which the person is comfortable and comforted by sights, sounds and tastes they enjoy. This needs to be combined with plenty of down time to avoid feelings of boredom and loneliness. Proper management of diet, activity and medications can minimize pain that might also cause mood swings.
Drew reminds us that all behavior is communication.”
Contact us to learn more about our team of Alzheimers care experts.
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
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Facts About Alzheimer Disease
Alzheimer disease is becoming more common as the general population gets older and lives longer.;Alzheimer disease;usually affects people older than 65. A small number of people have early-onset Alzheimer disease, which starts when they are in their 30s or 40s.
People live for an average of 8 years after their symptoms appear. But the disease can progress quickly in some people and slowly in others. Some people live as long as 20 years with the disease.
No one knows what causes Alzheimer disease. Genes, environment, lifestyle, and overall health may all play a role.
Slowing The Progression Of Symptoms
The same healthy lifestyle changes that are used to prevent Alzheimers disease can also be useful in slowing the advancement of symptoms.
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What Is The Treatment For Symptoms And Complications Of Dementia
Some symptoms and complications of dementia can be relieved by medical treatment, even if no treatment exists for the underlying cause of the dementia.
- Behavioral disorders may improve with individualized therapy aimed at identifying and changing specific problem behaviors.
- Mood swings and emotional outbursts may be treated with mood-stabilizing drugs.
- Agitation and psychosis may be treated with antipsychotic medication or, in some cases, anticonvulsants.
- Seizures usually require anticonvulsant medication.
- Sleeplessness can be treated by changing certain habits and, in some cases, by taking medication.
- Bacterial infections require treatment with antibiotics.
- Dehydration and malnutrition may be treated with rehydration and supplements or with behavioral therapies.
- Aspiration, pressure sores, and injuries can be prevented with appropriate care.
What To Do Next After Learning What Stage Of Alzheimer’s Disease Your Loved One Is In
As mentioned, learning about the stage of Alzheimers disease that a loved one is experiencing helps provide perspective and context. This knowledge makes it easier to have conversations with doctors about the patients condition and how to approach future treatment options. Understanding the later stages of the disease also helps when planning for lifestyle changes, new equipment, and other items that may be needed. One of the other major benefits in understanding the overall progression of Alzheimers disease is preparing for future living arrangements, such a memory care community, that could become a preferred option during later stages of the disease. Because the cost of dementia care is high, families should begin planning as soon as possible following a diagnosis.
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Stages Of Alzheimers Disease
The following is an excerpt from our upcoming ebook, Living Well with Alzheimers Disease, available for free on our website on November 1, 2013. This chapter outlines the stages of Alzheimers in a couple different ways.
There are several systems by which professionals gauge Alzheimers stages. Because each brain is unique, the progression of the disease varies from person to person which symptoms appear first, the progression of symptoms, and the length of each stage. Because of individual variations in the progression of AD, many professionals use loose terms to define Alzheimers disease stages: mild or early, moderate or middle, severe or late, and end of life. Another system breaks it down further into seven Alzheimers stages based on the amount of cognitive decline. Below is a chart describing how the two systems compare:
Stage : Moderate Decline
During this period, the problems in thinking and reasoning that you noticed in stage 3 get more obvious, and new issues appear. Your friend or family member might:
- Forget details about themselves
- Have trouble putting the right date and amount on a check
- Forget what month or season it is
- Have trouble cooking meals or even ordering from a menu
- Struggle to use the telephone
- Not understand what is said to them
- Struggle to do tasks with multiple steps like cleaning the house.
You can help with everyday chores and their safety. Make sure they aren’t driving anymore, and that no one tries to take advantage of them financially.
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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.
Other Factors That Can Affect Behavior
In addition to changes in the brain, other things may affect how people with Alzheimers behave:
- Feelings such as sadness, fear, stress, confusion, or anxiety
- Health-related problems, including illness, pain, new medications, or lack of sleep
- Other physical issues like infections, constipation, hunger or thirst, or problems seeing or hearing
Other problems in their surroundings may affect behavior for a person with Alzheimers disease. Too much noise, such as TV, radio, or many people talking at once can cause frustration and confusion. Stepping from one type of flooring to another or the way the floor looks may make the person think he or she needs to take a step down. Mirrors may make them think that a mirror image is another person in the room. For tips on creating an Alzheimers-safe home, visit Home Safety and Alzheimers Disease.
If you dont know what is causing the problem, call the doctor. It could be caused by a physical or medical issue.
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Stage : Moderate Cognitive Decline
In stage 4, the individual will experience difficulty concentrating, decreased memory of recent events, and difficulty managing their finances or traveling alone to a new location. They may have trouble completing complex tasks. At this stage, they may be in denial about their symptoms and may also start withdrawing from family or friends because socialization becomes challenging. At stage 4, a doctor can detect clear cognitive problems during a patient exam.
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
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Stage : Severe Decline
As Alzheimer’s progresses, your loved one might recognize faces but forget names. They might also mistake a person for someone else, for instance, think their wife is their mother. Delusions might set in, such as thinking they need to go to work even though they no longer have a job.
You might need to help them go to the bathroom.
It might be hard to talk, but you can still connect with them through the senses. Many people with Alzheimer’s love hearing music, being read to, or looking over old photos.
At this stage, your loved one might struggle to:
- Feed themselves
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.
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
Take Breaks And Get Support
Alzheimers can be extremely difficult for both the patient and caregiver. You need to take care of yourself too, which will also help you provide better care for the patient. Your well-being must be a priority. Alzheimers care is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure you get out, see friends, and find time for enjoyable activities. Ask for help when you need it. You can find support groups through local services or the Alzheimers Association website.
These tips can help you manage trying moments with someone who has the disease. However, if the mood swings are excessive or seem potentially dangerous, talk to your healthcare provider about medications that can help control them. These may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and anti-psychotics, which can make both your life and the patients life calmer and more manageable.
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