Recognizing Symptoms of Dementia
The Brown family reunion has always been an event everyone looks forward to. Family visits, games, stories and everyone’s favorite foods are always on the agenda. On the top of the menu is Grandmas traditional Lemon Coconut Cake. This year, however, the cake tasted a little on the salty side, by at least a half cup.
Though the cake was disappointing, of more concern was Grandma’s confusion with the recipe and the loved ones around her. Could something be wrong with grandma’s mental state?
For an elder person a little forgetfulness or confusion is normal, but when do you know if there is a serious problem, such as dementia?
An online article from FamilyDoctor.org outlines some common symptoms in recognizing dementia.
“Dementia causes many problems for the person who has it and for the person’s family. Many of the problems are caused by memory loss. Some common symptoms of dementia are listed below. Not everyone who has dementia will experience all of these symptoms.
- Recent memory loss. All of us forget things for a while and then remember them later. People who have dementia often forget things, but they never remember them. They might ask you the same question over and over, each time forgetting that you’ve already given them the answer. They won’t even remember that they already asked the question.
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks. People who have dementia might cook a meal but forget to serve it. They might even forget that they cooked it.
Problems with language. People who have dementia may forget simple words or use the wrong words. This makes it hard to understand what they want.
- Time and place disorientation. People who have dementia may get lost on their own street. They may forget how they got to a certain place and how to get back home.
Poor judgment. Even a person who doesn’t have dementia might get distracted. But people who have dementia can forget simple things, like forgetting to put on a coat before going out in cold weather.
- Problems with abstract thinking. Anybody might have trouble balancing a checkbook, but people who have dementia may forget what the numbers are and what has to be done with them.
- Misplacing things. People who have dementia may put things in the wrong places. They might put an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl. Then they can’t find these things later.
- Changes in mood. Everyone is moody at times, but people who have dementia may have fast mood swings, going from calm to tears to anger in a few minutes.
Personality changes. People who have dementia may have drastic changes in personality. They might become irritable, suspicious or fearful.
- Loss of initiative. People who have dementia may become passive. They might not want to go places or see other people.”
Dementia is caused by change or destruction of brain cells. Often this change is a result of small strokes or blockage of blood cells, severe hypothyroidism or Alzheimer’s disease. There is a continuous decline in ability to perform normal daily activities. Personal care including dressing, bathing, preparing meals and even eating a meal eventually becomes impossible.
What can family members do? An appointment with the doctor or geriatric clinic is the first step. There are some medications that may help slow the process. Your doctor may recommend a care facility specializing in dementia and Alzheimer’s. These facilities offer a variety of care options from day care with stimulating activities to part or full-time live-in options. Sometimes if patients tend to wander off, a locked facility is needed.
At first, loved ones need only a little help with remembering to do daily activities or prepare meals. As dementia progresses, caregiving demands often progress to 24 hour care. Night and day become confused and normal routines of sleeping, eating and functioning become more difficult for the patient. The demented person feels frustrated and may lash out in anger or fear. It is not uncommon for a child or spouse giving the care to quickly become overwhelmed and discouraged. This can result in caregiver burnout, which is not good for either the caregiver or the sick person.
Family gatherings provide an excellent opportunity to discuss caregiving plans and support. It is most helpful if everyone in the family is united in supporting the family caregivers.
Professional home care services are an option to help families in the home. These providers are trained and skilled to help with dementia patients. Don’t forget care facilities as well. It may be the best loving care a family member can give is to place their loved one in a facility where that person is safely monitored and cared for.
The National Care Planning Council supports caregiving services throughout the country.