Early signs and symptoms of dementia told
Last updated 12/3/2009 at Noon
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia currently affect an estimated 2.4 million to 4.5 million Americans. And, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, that number could more than triple to 16 million by 2050.
The incidence of the disease doubles every five years after age 65, according to the coalition of nonprofit organizations, health care facilities, adult day care programs and government agencies. It is estimated that about 500,000 Americans younger than age 65 have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
It is estimated that one to four family members typically serve as caregivers for each individual with Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, many people might, now or in the future, find themselves wondering whether a loved one is exhibiting symptoms of the closely-related diseases.
The information below can help in detecting the early symptoms and signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia. But remember that some symptoms can also be attributed to the normal effects of aging or are due to factors such as stress or depression. Also, it is important to consult a physician for a proper diagnosis if a loved one experiences any of these symptoms.
Because Alzheimer’s and other dementias affect the brain and its functioning, both behavioral and cognitive changes are apparent early in the course of the disease. Some of the most common behavioral and cognitive changes are listed below. They have been provided by Innovative Health Care Consultants, a professional nurse-owned case management service in Riverside and San Diego counties.
Difficulty or issues in any of the following cognitive areas should be brought to a physician’s attention immediately.
Memory loss is the most common symptom in Alzheimer’s and dementia. While occasionally forgetting names or appointments is normal, a person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia will often be unable to recall recently-learned information. That person’s forgetfulness also will occur with increasing frequency.
Everyday tasks such as acts of basic hygiene (showering or brushing one’s teeth), meal preparation or placing a telephone call can seem unfamiliar to someone in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Sometimes all or most of the steps required to perform the action are recalled, but the order is jumbled.
Although occasionally forgetting the correct word for an object is normal, a person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia will forget simple words or use unusual terms. Both speech and writing can be affected and might be slightly puzzling or difficult to understand.
Occasional bouts of forgetfulness are normal, but a person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia will be unaware of their surroundings even in familiar places, such as his or her neighborhood or inside the home.
Complex mental tasks or ones that require several steps may become difficult (if not impossible) to perform. The difficulty usually becomes apparent in tasks that require a person to input information from various sources and then combine, assess or analyze that information. Depending on the individual and the stage of the disease, this could include an activity such as balancing a checkbook or following a group discussion.
An inability to make a sound decision based on a given set of factors, when a person normally shows sound judgment, is another possible sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia. A common example is dressing inappropriately for the weather.
Putting items in the wrong place
Another early warning sign is placing objects in inappropriate or nonsensical places, such as putting keys in the refrigerator.
Major shifts in personality, behavior and mood or energy levels can also indicate early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms.
A noticeable shift in personality can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Sometimes personality changes are hard to pinpoint, but take note if your loved one isn’t acting in accordance with his or her normal patterns of behavior. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, an individual often understands that he or she has forgotten an important piece of information, and the inability to recall it causes frustration.
Behavior or mood
Alzheimer’s and other dementias can cause severe and rapidly changing moods, resulting in an individual experiencing various emotions ranging from rage to sadness and complete calm within the course of a few minutes.
Passivity, sleeping for prolonged periods of time, sitting for hours watching television or otherwise not speaking with anyone are other early warning signs. A lack of energy or passion for life can manifest in a lack of desire to participate in normal activities, especially ones that the person previously enjoyed.
Anyone with questions or concerns can call an Innovative case manager at (760) 731-1334 or (877) 731-1442. Information is also available by visiting the company’s Internet site at http://www.innovativehc.com.