Coping with dementia and other forms of memory loss can be confusing and frustrating for both elderly individuals and their loved ones. One of the first obstacles to overcome is accurately identifying the signs of dementia and taking whatever preventative measures are available to deal with it.
Although dementia is used to singularly describe a large group of symptoms that affect memory, along with cognitive skills and social abilities, it does not have a single cause, and having memory loss alone doesn’t mean you have dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Dementia is a broad category with various underlying causes, but certain conditions that lead to dementia are treatable. That’s why it’s important to watch for early signs of the condition, test for dementia, and be properly diagnosed by a medical professional.
What are the early signs of dementia?
Dementia affects people differently – especially depending on what the underlying causes are – and can manifest itself through a wide array of symptoms. However, here are five common symptoms that could indicate you or your loved ones are experiencing the condition:
1. Memory Loss
You may start experiencing difficulty recalling information you recently learned, including scheduled appointments or events. You may grow increasingly forgetful of where you placed everyday objects, such as your wallet, keys, or the remote control, or what you told people, leading you to rely more on frequent reminders.
2. Increasing difficulty with language and communication
Dementia also can lead to difficulty engaging in conversation, according to Medical News Today. You may easily lose track of what you’re saying or not remember that someone said the same thing earlier in the conversation. When it comes to writing, you may also struggle with grammar, spelling and punctuation or even see your handwriting become sloppier.
3. Decreasing ability to focus and pay attention
It may become a real challenge to pay attention or focus for a long period of time. This can lead to frequent “spacing out” or walking away without completing a project. Additionally, you may find it difficult to carry out simple tasks at home or work, even those with which you’re familiar.
4. Impaired reasoning and judgment
One common symptom of dementia is finding it difficult to plan or solve problems, or even choosing more risky or less rational options. This can affect your ability to drive; present challenges when you’re trying to follow a recipe or pay bills; or lead you to make unnecessary purchases or pay too much for things. You also may just find it difficult to judge the passing of time or decipher your location.
5. Loss of visual perception
Not only does dementia occasionally cause changes to spatial awareness, but you also may struggle deciphering visual information, judging distances, or distinguishing between similar colors.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, many forms of dementia are progressive, meaning your symptoms may start out slowly and then gradually worsen. If two or more of these symptoms emerge, the best step is to see a doctor to determine the cause and test for dementia.
Dealing with Dementia
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is “no sure way to prevent dementia.” There are, however, steps you can take to help mitigate the symptoms and reduce risk factors.
For instance, certain risk factors are hereditary or related to age or other conditions. Other factors can be at least somewhat controlled. These include:
- Diet and exercise
- Heavy alcohol use
- Cardiovascular risk factors
- Sleep apnea
- Vitamin and nutritional deficiencies
When it comes to prevention, you can make certain choices to address those risk factors. As you age or experience other conditions that could lead to dementia, you can take the following steps:
- Keep your mind active
- Be physically and socially active
- Consume enough vitamins
- Quit smoking
- Treat health conditions
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Practice good sleep hygiene
- Sing some show tunes
Having dementia diagnosed early also gives you the opportunity to talk with your doctor and discuss ways to manage the condition, maximize benefits from available treatments, and prevent damaging or life-threatening complications. You also can learn ways to communicate your needs with family members and friends so they know how to offer their support and care to help you achieve the best quality of life while dealing with dementia.
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