As you age, you may notice changes in your memory and thinking abilities. Everyone experiences some changes because cognitive functioning, such as processing speed, does tend to decline with age. However, it can become worrisome, especially for loved ones, who may wonder whether these changes may be indicative of a bigger problem. If you are worried about the potential presence of Alzheimer’s Disorder or general dementia symptoms, keep in mind these four things to look out for:
As noted, memory does decline some with age. However, not all memory loss is created equal. Forgetting small details such as the timing for medical appointments and a new person’s name, is less concerning. Memory loss for recent events (especially personal events) and forgetting key personal details (such as a loved one’s first name) are more likely to be dementia symptoms.
People with dementia symptoms may become easily, distracted, confused, and disoriented. They may forget to engage in rote behaviors or get confused about the steps they have completed. For example, perhaps they have always cooked and now find themselves accidentally skipping over necessary steps in a recipe. They may even forget to supply all the necessary items at mealtimes.
As it progresses, dementia can cause confusion about location and how to get home. At the worst, individuals with dementia may forget ‘where’ they are in life. They may think they are at some point in the past, which is when they may be most likely to misidentify the people around them (perhaps thinking a child is a younger version of a sibling, or even being unable to recognize known people).
Young people may be most often associated with having poor judgment, perhaps even viewed as being impulsive. This is because their brains are still forming even into their young adult years. Typically, by approximately age 25, the brain is fully formed, and people are able to exercise sound judgment, (containing their impulses and delaying gratification) to make well-thought out and rational decisions.
A decrease or loss of judgment, especially if it is very out of character, is another symptom of dementia. A “mid-life crisis” may appear like poor judgment but when the cause is dementia, the behaviors will be both more basic and extreme. For example, a person with dementia may wear the wrong clothing in cold weather. They are not able to think rationally about a basic need and put themselves at risk.
While most people focus on the memory and cognitive changes associated with dementia, it is important to note that there will often be some personality changes as well. These can be just as insidious and subtle as the symptoms described above. Some of these changes are the result of the disease itself and some of the changes are a result of the person’s reaction to having the disease.
Often, dementia symptoms will cause a person to withdraw from others. They may do this because of embarrassment and not wanting others to see how they may be struggling. People with dementia may also exhibit depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings as they grapple with the changes they are facing. Later in the process, they may exhibit some level of disinhibition, due to declines in judgment.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Dementia symptoms can be very subtle at first and early on there may be a fine line between what is normal aging versus something to be concerned about. When in doubt, get the opinion of a medical professional. Your mind may be set at ease, or you may catch a problem in time to slow the progression with today’s best treatment options. As treatment needs increase, memory care services may be your best option. In memory care, aging adults can get the best daily treatment from trained professionals.