We are all forgetful at times. However, as we age, the risk of developing dementia increases. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, knowing the early signs that distinguish normal aging from those brought on by the early stages of dementia can improve lives and save $7.9 trillion in medical and care costs. If your loved one shows any of the following early warning signs, book an appointment with your primary care physician today.
Memory Loss (that is more pronounced than age-related forgetfulness)
- Forgetting where you placed your car keys or an inability to remember where you parked your car would be considered normal age-related forgetfulness.
- In the early stages of dementia, you may see your loved one have difficulty recalling recent events or struggling with their short-term memory. They may be unable to recall what they had for breakfast, leave the stove on when cooking, struggle with getting to/from familiar locations, repeat themselves frequently or misplace items.
- A strong ability to remember specifics from the past may occur.
- Disruption and/or confusion in regards to their normal routines as one is unable to accurately recall what day of the week it is or the time of day.
- A struggle with thinking, decision making, and remembering may leave one feeling overwhelmed and scared, causing them to withdraw from normal day-to-day activities.
- The individual is usually the first to notice and when these changes are noticeable by friends and family, it can lead to embarrassment, anger, and agitation.
- It is important to note that depression may also cause one to withdraw from normal day-to-day activities and if other signs of depression are present, it should be discussed with a physician.
Requires Assistance with Activities of Daily Living
- Your loved one may require cues and reminders with bathing, dressing, daily hygiene, etc.
Personality or Behavior Changes
- Personality traits that are uncharacteristic.
For example: Mom had always been polite and reserved, now she is short-tempered and using profanity in her speech.
- Common behavioral changes exhibited within the early stages of dementia may include wandering without a known purpose, anxiousness, agitation, rummaging, and/or hoarding.
Resistive to Change or Won’t Let Things Go
- Desire to maintain independence and a fear of losing control.
For example: You have noticed that Dad is no longer able to manage his own finances yet he becomes accusatory and upset when you attempt to assist or take over.
- This occurs when there is a mismanagement of finances or clothing choice with respect to weather such as wearing light clothes on a cold, winter day, etc.
- Occasionally making a poor decision when aging is to be expected, however, with dementia, these poor decisions become more frequent and pronounced.
If your loved one becomes disoriented, delusional in speech, is experiencing hallucinations, or exhibits atypical behavior and these changes have a sudden onset, you should seek medical attention immediately as these may be signs of a more serious medical condition.