Elderly man and woman touch foreheads in black and white photo

How to Recognize Early Signs of Dementia

Whether you are caring for an elderly person or you have elderly loved ones, looking out for the early signs of dementia is vital, since lifestyle changes and treatment to quell symptoms, may be necessary. Recognizing dementia early allows those concerned to make important decisions regarding their future and that of our loved ones. Moreover, in cases where treatment is required, the earlier the better, to increase the chances of success and to keep cognitive decline at bay.

Normal Aging or Dementia?

Dementia is actually a group of conditions that typically result in memory loss, difficulty processing new information, and problems with communication. Because it mostly begins at the age of 65 or over, its symptoms can erroneously be chalked up to ‘normal aging’. If you find that your loved one occasionally forgets where they left their keys or phone, or they forget a name of an actor or acquaintance, it might just be a typical sign of aging. However, if memory loss is very frequent or severe (i.e. the person has problem forming sentences and often feels frustrated by the changes taking place in their mind), you may be witnessing early symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia. These symptoms are sometimes caused by a reversible condition and if so, they might be treatable. A doctor may be able to stop further decline by placing them on medication or other forms of treatment.

What are the Early Signs of Dementia?

The most common symptoms include short-term memory changes (e.g. forgetting why they entered the room), difficulty with normal tasks (such as balancing a checkbook or paying bills), and struggling to express themselves. You may also find changes in your loved one or patient’s personality. For instance, they may be apathetic about activities they used to enjoy immensely in the past, or have big mood swings. Some people even develop anxiety or depression. They may not notice that they are changing, but those who know them well will notice a big difference. Dementia can bring about a state of confusion; the person can become intensely frustrated because something that was once so easy and matter of course, is now seemingly beyond their grasp.

Dementia Prevention

We may not be able to avoid dementia completely, but research indicates that there are lifestyle choices we can make to prevent it. Exercise is key; ensure your loved one walks, bikes or takes part in physical activity for at least half an hour a day. Nutrition is important; they should avoid sugary and processed foods in favour of plenty of fruit and veg, healthy protein and essential fatty acids. It is also vital for those aged above 65 continue to learn new things (such as a new language or music), to strengthen neural connections and keep them interested in the world around them.

If you notice a loved one or patient is becoming more forgetful or confused, or showing signs of mood changes or apathy, consider having a quick checkup with their doctor. They may have a treatable condition but if they don’t, it is important that they know what is happening to them, so they can make important decisions and adopt important lifestyle changes that could help delay the progression of dementia.