Have you ever wondered, “Have I always been this forgetful?” Often, symptoms of the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia can be confused with the traditional signs that accompany aging. We all know that many things change as we age. Normally, our bodies and brains slow down, but our intelligence stays the same. We might occasionally have a hard time remembering the names of people, places, and things as we get older, yet it has little impact on our daily lives.
Dementia is a general term that describes symptoms that may be caused by a variety of brain disorders. It involves symptoms severe enough to disrupt daily life, which affects one or more of the following brain functions:
- Executive Function – your ability to plan, reason, and solve problems while focusing on a task
- Language – your capacity to write or speak and to understand written or spoken words
- Recent memory – your ability to learn and recall information
- Visuospatial Function – the ability to correctly judge where objects are and understand and use symbols, maps, etc.
It may be difficult to spot the difference between age-related changes and the first signs of dementia. For example, if someone has been bad at balancing their checkbook their whole life, and they continue to do it poorly as they get older, that probably is nothing to worry about. However, if you recognize that they can’t recreate a known family recipe or they are forgetting family members’ names, it could be the beginning stage of dementia. Some early symptoms of dementia are:
- Asking the same question multiple times
- Odd or inappropriate behaviors
- Forgetfulness of recent events
- Changes in personality
- Frequent falls or loss of balance
- Changes in diet or eating habits
- Increased apathy
- Changes in language abilities
- Changes in hygiene
Unfortunately, there is no cure for most forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are medications, support groups, and agencies that can make life a little easier for those with dementia and for their caregivers. Consult your family physician if you think you or a loved one are experiencing some of these symptoms of cognitive decline.
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