Recognizing the Warning Signs of Dementia

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Dementia

The fear of dementia is common in the United States. In fact, a survey published by the University of Michigan reported that about half (48%) of respondents between the ages of 50 and 64 were concerned about developing the memory loss associated with dementia.

However, while memory loss is a common symptom, dementia is fueled by various neurological changes that can also affect your reasoning skills, personality, judgement, mood, and behavior.

Dr. Andrew Lerman and our team at Gables Neurology in Miami, Florida, specialize in diagnosing and treating neurological conditions that affect the adult population, including all types of dementia.

Here’s what Dr. Lerman has to say about the warning signs and symptoms of dementia.

Understanding dementia

Dementia is not a disease. Rather, it’s a collection of symptoms that are driven by underlying neurological deficits that may be related to:

Regardless of the underlying cause of dementia, early diagnosis and treatment play a vital role in your ability to manage or, in the case of treatable conditions, reverse the effects of dementia.

Symptoms of dementia

The early symptoms of dementia can vary greatly and are often very subtle, but worsen as the condition progresses. You may notice the following symptoms.

Memory loss

Memory loss related to dementia often starts subtly and is much different than forgetfulness that occurs when you’re busy or otherwise distracted. It is common, for instance, to temporarily forget an appointment. With dementia, you might not recall ever scheduling an appointment or why the appointment was necessary.

Dementia typically affects short term memories first, such as forgetting why you entered a room or what you planned to make for supper. You may also find yourself repeating comments or questions several times during a brief conversation because you have no recall of what’s been said.

As dementia progresses, family members and friends often note more concerning memory lapses such as forgetting a long-time friend, spouse, or grandchild. Individuals with advanced dementia not only forget names. They may not remember ever getting married or having children but can easily recall their childhood home or high school pastimes.

Difficulty carrying out daily tasks

Individuals with dementia often find it difficult to concentrate and may have problems completing certain tasks, especially those that require several steps. This may involve daily care routines such as fixing breakfast, getting dressed, or following the rules of a familiar game.

Dementia can also cause visual problems that can interfere with your ability to read, drive a car, judge distances, or maintain good balance. This may cause you to avoid tasks that require you to leave the familiar routine and comforts of home.

Changes in mood, personality, and judgement

Depression is a common early warning sign of dementia and may include symptoms such as:

Along with mood changes, dementia can also cause shifts in personality and judgement. Someone with dementia may inappropriately engage with strangers despite safety concerns or choose to take a late-night walk to a nearby park.

Conversely, they may become suspicious of once trusted friends or easily upset with family members expressing concern about their behavior.

You may also notice increasing anxiety in individuals who are aware of their cognitive decline or changes in thought process. In the later stages of dementia, these psychological changes may include paranoia, open hostility, and hallucinations.

Difficulty expressing feelings or ideas

Those with dementia often find it difficult to express their feelings because they can’t recall familiar words or may lose track of what they’re trying to communicate. This can cause them to trail off in the middle of a sentence or incorrectly identify a familiar object such as a clock.

It’s important to note that many therapies already exist for slowing the progression of dementia. Dr. Lerman is also an active participant in ongoing research, including clinical trials, that focuses on preventing the cognitive decline associated with dementia. He is happy to note that various studies and approval processes are currently underway for medications that do just that.

For an accurate diagnosis and the most effective treatments available for all types of dementia, schedule an evaluation at Gables Neurology today. Call our office or request an appointment online.

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