A little forgetfulness or confusion is normal, but when do you know if there is a serious problem, such as dementia? There are several common symptoms in recognizing dementia.
- Recent Memory Loss – Everyone forgets where they place things. People who have the disease often forget things and never remember them. They might ask you the same question over and over each time forgetting that you have already answered it. A person with dementia usually won’t remember they already asked the question.
- Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks – People who have dementia might cook a meal but forget to serve it. They might even forget they cooked it. People with dementia may forget simple words or use the wrong words making it hard to understand what they want.
- Time and Place Disorientation – People who have dementia may get lost on their own street. They may forget how they got to a certain place and how to get back home. Dementia can also make people do simple things like forgetting to put on a coat before going out in cold weather.
- Problems with Abstract Thinking – Projects such as balancing a checkbook can be a problem for people who have dementia. They may forget what the numbers are what has to be done with them.
- Misplacing Things – People who have the disease may put things in the wrong places. Then they can’t find these things later.
- Changes in Mood – Everyone is moody at times, but people who have dementia may have fast mood swings, going from calm to tears to anger in a few minutes. Individuals with dementia may have drastic changes in personality including irritability, suspicion or fear.
- Loss of Initiative – People who have dementia may become passive. They might not want to go places or see other people.
Dementia is caused by change or destruction of brain cells. Often this change is a result of small strokes or blockage of blood cells. The result is a continuous decline in ability to perform normal daily activities including dressing, bathing, preparing meals and even eating a meal.
What can you do if you suspect a family member has dementia? An appointment with the doctor or geriatric clinic is the first step to take. Depending on the cause and severity of the problem there are some medications that may help slow the process.
In the beginning, family members may find part time caregivers for their loved one. They may only need a little help with remembering to do daily activities or prepare meals. As dementia progresses, caregiving demands often progress to 24-hour care. Normal routines of sleeping, eating and functioning become more difficult for your loved one. It is common for a child or spouse giving the care to quickly become overwhelmed and discouraged.
It is important that the entire family discusses caregiving plans and the whole family supports the decision. It is important that everyone in the family is united in a decision that is in the best interest of the loved one.