Top 5 signs to recognize dementia in an elderly person

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Watching an elderly person fall victim to dementia is never easy. Nobody likes to think about their parents or grandparents slowly losing their memories and cognitive abilities until they are unable to function, but it becomes a fact of life for many people all over the world. There is usually nothing that can be done once dementia takes hold of a person, but there is still plenty that you can do to help an elderly person live a comfortable life even as they struggle with losing the ability to live independently. The key is in being able to recognize the signs of dementia in a person and stepping in to help them when they need it.

What is Dementia?

Before we begin to look at the signs of dementia, we should first take a look at what dementia is. Dementia is a term that describes a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to impact a person’s life. It’s a broad term as opposed to a specific disease, and it can present itself in a number of different ways. People living with dementia often appear confused, unable to concentrate on once-simple tasks and may have trouble remembering important people and events in their lives.

Dementia is often associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but although Alzheimer’s accounts for 60% to 70% of dementia cases it is far from the only cause. Other causes of dementia include stroke, traumatic brain injury, HIV infections, Parkinson’s disease, alcoholism, drug use, and multiple sclerosis. In short, anything that causes damage to brain cells can result in dementia.

It is also important to note that dementia is not caused by aging. Being over the age of 65 is certainly a risk factor, but old age doesn’t cause serious mental decline.

Recognizing Dementia Chin on cane Top 5 signs to recognize dementia in an elderly person

One of the problems with dementia is that it can be difficult to identify, especially in those who are living alone. Most forms of dementia are progressive, meaning that symptoms can start out fairly minor and get increasingly worse. As always, it’s best to try to catch dementia in its early stages while it is still relatively easy to maintain the quality of a person’s life.  Here are 5 telling signs of dementia.

  1. Memory Loss

    Memory loss is one of the most common early signs of dementia. People forget things all the time, but most of the time they can remember them later. This isn’t the case for someone with dementia; once they forget something, they seem to be unable to remember it. Look for signs such as the inability of someone with dementia to recognize important people in their lives, forgetting important dates and asking the same questions over and over again.  They may forget where their possessions are after years of always putting them in the same place.

  2. Difficulty Performing Once-Simple Tasks

    A person with dementia often has difficulty performing tasks that once came easy for them. They may have trouble preparing meals that they have always prepared for themselves. They may no longer be able to knit after years of talented accomplishments.  They may have trouble tying their shoes or doing their laundry.

  3. Difficulty Speaking

    Another common symptom of dementia is the inability to find the right words while having a conversation. They may stop and try to think of what they want to say, but no matter how hard they concentrate it never comes to them. This can be very frustrating for a person, and many people lose their tempers and lash out when it happens to them.

  4. Time, Place and Spatial Disorientation

    It’s not uncommon for a person with dementia to forget where they are, how they got there or how to get home. They may also have trouble with directions and get lost easily or wander off.  They may be unable to keep track of what time it is or even what day it is.

  5. Financial Irresponsibility

    One of the biggest dangers of dementia that people rarely consider is financial irresponsibility. Some people are never good with money, but if an older adult who has always been responsible starts to forget to pay their bills or becomes really careless with their savings, they may have a problem with dementia.

Dementia can be very hard not just for a person who has it, but for their loved ones as well. It’s stressful on many levels, which is why it is so important to recognize the signs as soon as possible and find help before things progress too far.

By Richard Dorrough

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