A range of symptoms are covered by the term Dementia that indicate an overall mental decline. Both dementia and age-related memory loss share many of the same symptoms, making it difficult to determine which of these a person is experiencing. Doctors must take into account many factors when diagnosing dementia, to determine whether the early stages of dementia are present. Knowing the early signs of dementia can also help you to understand how to best care for it.
Be aware though, that one incident of memory loss does not mean that your loved one has dementia, these symptoms need to occur repeatedly over a period of time for them to indicate the beginning stages of dementia.
Memory is only one of the areas affected by dementia, therefore if it is to be considered dementia, at least two core mental functions must also be significantly impaired along with memory lapses.These include:
- Communication and language
- Ability to focus and pay attention
- Reasoning and judgment
- Visual perception
Normal, age-related symptoms of memory loss can be displayed along with symptoms of dementia. For example, your loved one forgetting why they entered the kitchen, or an appointment are signs of normal, age-related memory loss. However, if they are forgetting appointments regularly and become uncharacteristically depressed or frustrated, this could indicate signs of early dementia. Also, if your loved one starts to forget how to load the dishwasher, this too could also be a sign of early dementia compared to forgetting why they went into the kitchen. Others symptoms that doctors look for when diagnosing dementia are:
- Difficulty finding the right words
- Changes in mood
- Apathy or listlessness
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Difficulty following story lines
- Being repetitive
How can you care for the early stages of dementia?
Be gentle and patient. Do not embarrass your loved one by becoming impatient with their memory loss. Try to support them by creating lists, reminders and labels on household objects. For example, if you see that they repeatedly forget where the glassware is kept, put a label on the cupboard that says “Cups & Glasses”.
Schedule an assessment. A neurologist will be able to run tests to see if your loved one is experiencing dementia. If you find that your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease specifically, there are treatment options that can hold off the progression of symptoms. Don’t be nervous to get a diagnosis – starting these treatments early can extend the quality of your loved one’s life significantly.
Make changes to your home environment and daily schedules to accommodate your loved one. As dementia progresses, your loved one’s level of confusion can increase. To simplify daily living, prepare the environment to make daily tasks as easy as possible. You should also simplify schedules. Daily grooming, preparing meals and processing information will all be areas that your loved one will need more assistance with throughout their day.
Consider professional support. Professional and experienced caregivers can help you to understand dementia and provide your loved one with essential daily support. They can help with grooming and bathing, meals and recreational activities to stimulate the mind and body. They can also relieve the pressure of being your loved one’s only support, allowing the time to ensure you are looked after also.
Early dementia can be frightening and worrisome for everyone involved. help. Luckily there are tips on how to care for early stages of dementia that can make the transition easier. Knowing more about the disease can help you to plan and care for your loved one in a way that will soothe and comfort them.