Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living, such as feeding oneself. There are several different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common.
What are the signs and symptoms of dementia?
Signs and symptoms of dementia result when once-healthy neurons (nerve cells) in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die. While everyone loses some neurons as they age, people with dementia experience far greater loss.
The signs and symptoms can vary depending on the type and may include:
- Experiencing memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion
- Difficulty speaking, understanding and expressing thoughts, or reading and writing
- Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
- Trouble handling money responsibly and paying bills
- Repeating questions
- Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
- Losing interest in normal daily activities or events
- Hallucinating or experiencing delusions or paranoia
- Acting impulsively
- Not caring about other people’s feelings
- Losing balance and problems with movement
If someone you care for shows signs of dementia, make an appointment with their doctor. Explain to the doctor the symptoms that they are exhibiting and any other physical issues that are new. Sometimes, tests can show a vitamin deficiency or an infection that is easily treatable and those should be ruled out before a diagnosis of dementia should be made.
Next week will explore how to care for someone with dementia.