7 Warning Signs Of Dementia

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Dementia is an broad term used to describe a set of symptoms, including memory impairment, reasoning, judgment, language and other thinking skills. Dementia usually begins gradually, worsens over time and impairs a person’s abilities in work, carry out social interactions and maintain relationships. Although there are many causes of dementia; blood vessel disease, drug and alcohol abuse, and even brain damage, the most common and familiar dementia related conditions are vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, but dementia itself is a specific set of thinking and social symptoms that interfere with daily functioning. This can pose serious health and safety threats to someone living on their own or even with an untrained family member.

While there are certain similarities in the way symptoms of these conditions present themselves, there are some differences in the pathology of the conditions:

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a progressive loss of brain cells and other irregularities of the brain, whereas vascular dementia is a decline in thinking skills caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain, depriving brain cells of vital oxygen and nutrients, thus affecting cognitive function, as well as memory.

These are not the only types of dementia. They are however, the most common forms.

Warning Signs of Dementia

Read below for seven of the most common signs of dementia. If the person you’re worried about exhibits several of these signs, we recommend consulting with a doctor and then further pursuing dementia care in a long-term care facility if necessary.

1. Memory Loss

Forgetting something now and then and remembering later is normal and expected as someone ages. However, if someone doesn’t remember those things later or is forgetting things more and more often, dementia may be an unseen cause.

In its earlier stages, memory loss and confusion associated with dementia may be mild. The affected person may be aware of the changes taking place, such as difficulty recalling recent events, making decisions or processing what was said by others. This can be quite frustrating for the affected person, so it is important for caretakers or family to maintain a calm and reassuring demeanor should this situation arise.

In the later stages, memory loss becomes far more severe. A person may not recognize family members, may forget relationships, call family members by other names, or become confused about the location of home or the passage of time. He or she may forget the purpose of common items, such as a pen or a fork.

These changes are some of the most painful for caregivers and families, because it can feel as though someone we love is slipping away from us before our very eyes.

2. Difficulty With Familiar Tasks

Forgetting the rules of a favorite game, trouble driving to a familiar location, or forgetting steps involved in preparing a meal can all be signs of dementia. This disorientation is overwhelming to to the person who is experiencing it and it should be handled with sensitivity.

In the early stages of dementia, visual aids can be used around the house to help the person remember where things are. For example, you could put pictures on cabinet doors of what’s inside, such as cups and saucers. You can also involve them in everyday tasks such as shopping, setting the table, or even working in the garden. These types of tasks may help them to feel useful and improve their sense of self-worth.

As the illness progresses, these tasks may become harder for them to manage independently, and you may need to give them more support. Offer support sensitively and don’t be critical of their attempts. It can be very important for them to feel that they’re still useful.

3. Language Problems

Every now and then it is not uncommon for people to forget a commonly used word, and have to use a synonym for it instead. There’s a difference, though, between having that word on the tip of your tongue and not being able to remember it at all.

A person with dementia could forget a simple word or substitute a word in its place that doesn’t make sense. They may stop in a middle of a conversation, repeat themselves, or struggle with vocabulary.

As dementia conditions progresses, the affected may begin to use a set of common phrases or words more frequently, perhaps using the language that they first learned when they were children. It is recommended that caregivers find out what their loved ones’ first language was, and if possible, prepare to speak it with them, if even at a basic level.

In later stages of dementia, this small set of repetitive language may turn into a babble of language to the point that the individual with dementia can no longer express wants or needs. Gradual loss of communication is one of the most difficult changes for caregivers, friends, and family members to accept simply because they might feel that they can no longer understand or connect with their loved one.

Many people who have trouble communicating and have memory problems can remember songs from their youth or years past, since music and melodies are stored in a different part of the brain’s memory center than words. Therefore, singing songs with loved ones with dementia might serve as another way to connect.

Music can have an incredibly powerful effect on patients with dementia who are otherwise largely unresponsive.

A clip from the documentary ‘Alive Inside’ shows us a man named Henry who suffers from dementia. Henry has trouble answering the simplest yes or no questions. When he is presented with music however, he regains his mental acuity, and the difference is like night and day.

In the later stages of dementia, barriers to communication become greater, and the ability to communicate may diminish until there is minimal to no communication. Individuals with dementia might use curse words, or grunting may replace words.

As the ability to communicate with words, and comprehend language fades, recognition of the person’s own name may linger longer than understanding of other words. That said, a caregiver’s physical presence may be appreciated long after words no longer make sense or even after the person with dementia no longer recognizes people around him / her. In addition, the person might still be able to understand one’s tone of voice at this point.

Touch is also another important means of communication. If the person can tolerate it (and some people cannot), caregivers can give a kiss, hold hands, give a very gentle massage, or lightly brush their hair.

4. Poor Judgment

We all know to wear coats and other warm clothing when it’s cold outside. Someone with dementia, however, may exhibit poor judgment with simple tasks like this. They may wear inappropriate clothing for the weather, not keep themselves clean or groomed, or be easily scammed out of their money.

Poor judgment is one of the telltale signs of dementia related conditions.  While a typical symptom of early stages of Alzheimer’s is short term memory loss, poor judgment can sometimes precede memory loss.

Poor judgment refers to the inability to make appropriate decisions. If your relative has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, they might be unable to evaluate the different factors that should be considered when making a decision.

Poor judgment in Alzheimer’s is not just one questionable decision, but rather a pattern of clearly inappropriate decisions or actions.


5. Decreased Spatial And Visual Skills

Having a hard time reading, determining color or contrast, or judging directions or distances can be signs of approaching dementia. And if your loved one is still driving, this lack of spatial skills can be very dangerous.

Driving may become more difficult as dementia develops, in part because of changes in the ability to understand spatial relationships. For example, navigating a turn, changing lanes or parking a car could become a significant challenge due to a decline in visuospatial abilities. As dementia progresses, the difficult decision to quit driving usually must be made.

Dementia can affect depth perception, making it more difficult to navigate tasks such as going down stairs and thus increasing the risk for falls. Activities of daily living such as getting into a bathtub, getting dressed and even feeding oneself can become a challenge for the affected person.

People affected by dementia may also become easily lost and wander, even in very familiar environments. They might not recognize the path home that they’ve taken every day for many years, or be able to locate the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Visuospatial ability can be affected by multiple types of dementia, including in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Several research studies have concluded that visuospatial changes are especially prevalent in Lewy body dementia, which includes dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. One study noted that poor performance on visuospatial tests was connected with a faster rate of decline in persons with Lewy body dementia.

In addition, research has also shown that visuospatial deficits positively correlate with an increase in hallucinations in Lewy body dementia. Hallucinations are one of the hallmarks of Lewy body dementia, making this connection with visuospatial ability intriguing and identifying it as an area for further research.

It’s important to note that various types of dementia conditions can impact visuospatial abilities. This knowledge can help explain why some people living with dementia fall easily, seem to misjudge distances, get lost easily and struggle with driving skills.

6. Mood And Behavior Changes

If there’s a drastic change in your senior loved one’s consistent mood or behavior, this could be a sign of dementia. Depression is common in early dementia, and these mood changes aren’t always easy for the person going through them to recognize.

Loss of memory and intellectual function are telltale symptoms, but dementia can also cause changes in behaviour and mood. In fact, at least 90% of people with the disorder will develop behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD).

Some examples of BPSD are:

  • repetitive behaviour
  • mood disturbance (e.g. depression)
  • social inappropriateness
  • agitation
  • wandering
  • psychosis, which may include delusions and hallucinations
  • physical aggression
  • sleep disturbance.

Behavioural symptoms can often be quite challenging to cope with for caretakers and family members of people with dementia.

Care providers should discuss with the doctor ways in which they can best help manage these symptoms. Some simple examples of this may include:

  • maintaining a familiar environment
  • large face clocks, calendars and signs to improve orientation
  • providing pleasant stimulating activities
  • encouraging exercise and group activities
  • following set routines for daily tasks
  • providing a calm clear explanation about any changes to the routine

7. Apathy And Loss Of Initiative

This behavior is common in early dementia. Perhaps they completely lose interest in what were formerly their favorite hobbies or they don’t want to leave the house to do anything anymore. This can exacerbate some of the other signs of dementia.

According to

“Many people feel short of ‘drive’ or ‘lose their ‘spark’ occasionally, but apathy is a persistent loss of motivation to do things, or a lack of interest in things.

A person with any type of dementia can have apathy but it is particularly common in frontotemporal dementia.

Apathy can start at any stage of dementia but often develops early on. Many studies suggest that apathy becomes more common as dementia progresses. Once present, apathy tends to persist rather than come and go.

Apathy is much more common among people with dementia than in older people without dementia.

About 2–5% of older people without dementia have apathy at any one time. However, about 50–70% of people with dementia have apathy.”

Common signs of apathy include:

  • lack of effort or energy to manage everyday tasks such as personal hygiene or housekeeping
  • dependence upon others to structure daily activities
  • loss of interest or curiosity in new things
  • lack of concern about their own problems
  • unemotional responses to news or personal events, indifference, detachment

Dementia is emotionally and physically challenging for both the patient and their family

members. If you’re worried that your parent or other loved one is showing early signs of dementia, they regularly show warning signs of dementia, or they’ve been diagnosed with a specific dementia-related disease, finding a good long-term care facility is vital. This will help protect your emotions and ensure their safety and happiness.

If you’ve noticed these signs, speak with a doctor. If the situation worsens and your loved one needs long-term care or memory care in the Phoenix area, contact Above And Beyond for free placement services.

When to Contact A Senior Placement Service

The decision to move an aging loved one into a nursing home can potentially be one of the most difficult decisions that someone could have to make. Largely, assisted living gets a bad rap. And sensationalized depictions of “nursing homes” makes people view these places in a negative light.

The reality however, is that elderly care doesn’t mean that seniors will be confined to a bed, or left to be forgotten. There are different levels of senior care, and while some seniors may require more medical supervision than others, many facilities allow seniors some degree of independence, and the ability to socialize with other residents, as well as the freedom to leave the facility and tend to their own errands if they are still physically and mentally fit enough to do so. Their dietary needs are well provided for by fully staffed kitchens, preparing food that fits the dietary and nutrition guidelines defined by

In the long term, seniors may require higher levels of care as time progresses, and it is in their best interest to be in an environment where they can receive supervision from trained senior care staff staff who can address and provide care for their medical needs, as well as their emotional and physical well being.  

Benefits of Senior Care Facilities

Caring for an elderly loved one may be a stressful circumstance, and you may be apprehensive about placing a senior into permanent care. This decision however, can help to alleviate some of that stress. It’s no easy decision but in the long term it is the best course of action to take.

In a senior facility, your loved one can receive around the clock care, supervision, and assistance with the following:

  • Wandering prevention
  • Walking assistance
  • Transferring assistance
  • Dignified bathing, dressing and grooming care
  • Medication reminders and monitoring
  • Preparation of healthy meals
  • Light housekeeping chores
  • Transportation to appointments and therapies

Caring for an elderly loved one may be a stressful circumstance, and you may be apprehensive about placing a senior into permanent care. This decision however, can help to alleviate some of that stress. It’s no easy decision but in the long term it is the best course of action to take.

Long Term Memory Care

Memory care is a form of long-term care designed to meet the specific needs of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other types of memory problems. When considering memory care options, you may want to compile a list of questions that cover your concerns about your loved one’s care, comfort and safety.

In order to find the right memory care community for your loved one, questions about the costs and services may be at the front of the conversation. However, memory care communities offer a variety of services, some of which might be more suited to your loved one than others. For example, some memory care facilities may offer special memory care unit (SCU) staffed by skilled nurses who specialize in memory care.

Whether you choose a memory care facility or an SCU, staff members have received special training to assist people with dementia related conditions or impaired cognition. Common services include 24-hour supervised care, medical monitoring and assistance with daily living tasks, as well as a pleasing environment that is easy for residents to navigate.

Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Memory Care Community

As you  begin the search for the best memory care communities to suit your loved one’s needs, you will eventually come up with a list of your top picks. It is important to take time to tour each one, if possible. Ask questions of staff and other families whose loved ones reside at the community, to determine if the community is the right fit for your loved one.

Here are some questions that you should to ask memory care communities you’re considering:

  • What level of care does the community provide?
  • What type of training has the staff received?
  • What is the monthly rate for housing and care? What services does that rate include?
  • Are rooms private or semi-private? How do prices vary for each?
  • What level of personal assistance can residents expect?
  • What is the policy for handling medical emergencies?
  • How is the community secured?
  • What meals are provided?
  • Are special dietary requests, such as kosher meals, accommodated?
  • How often are housekeeping and laundry service provided?
  • What programs (exercise, physical therapy, social and other activities) does the facility offer?
  • Does the facility accommodate special care needs, such as diabetic care, mobility issues, physical aggressiveness or wandering?
  • Are residents grouped by cognitive level?
  • What is the ratio of staff to residents during the day/night?
  • How does the facility communicate with families about a resident’s well-being?

Families who are making care decisions about loved ones far away may want to make sure they know where a community is located and perhaps consider travel costs. If the distance is too great, it may be beneficial to choose a facility that is closer to your own home.

If you need assistance finding memory care for your loved one in the Phoenix area, Above and Beyond can help you formulate a plan and offer local expertise on the communities available in the area. You may want to ask friends and others you may know who have gone through this decision-making process. Their experiences can help you in your search and be an indispensible support in what can be a difficult time for your family and your loved one.

If you’ve noticed these signs, speak with a doctor. If the situation worsens and your loved one needs long-term care or memory care in the Phoenix area, contact Above and Beyond for free placement Services

Warning Signs of Dementia

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