Monday, March 26, 2018

Five Commons Signs of Early Dementia and How to Respond to Them

Dementia is a frightening condition that affects approximately 47 million people all over the world.

Nobody wants to think about someone they love possibly experiencing this debilitating condition. But, it’s important to know what the early signs are so that you can get your loved one the help they need as soon as possible.

Listed below are five common signs of early dementia, along with some tips for appropriately addressing them.

1. Poor Short-term Memory

One of the first signs that a person is experiencing dementia is changes in their short-term memory.

If someone’s short-term memory is failing, they won’t have much trouble recalling events that took place years ago, but they may struggle to remember things that happened recently.

For example, they might forget why they got up to go to a particular room or have a hard time remembering what they had for breakfast.

Everyone’s short-term memory fails them on occasion. However, if you notice a sudden increase in forgetfulness, it could be a cause for concern.

2. Changes in Mood

People in the early stages of dementia are also more likely to experience changes in their mood and personality.

They may suddenly go from being outgoing and cheerful to pessimistic and reserved. They might also lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy or no longer want to spend time with their friends or family.

3. Poor Sense of Direction

Another early sign of dementia is a poor sense of direction and/or spatial orientation. Examples of this include an inability to recognize landmarks that were once familiar to them or getting lost traveling somewhere they’ve frequently visited.

Some people who are experiencing dementia may also have trouble following directions when they’re trying to get somewhere or complete a task.

4. Frequent Falls

Frequent falls, slips, and stumbles also often occur when someone is struggling with dementia.

This increase in falls has to do, in part, with the visual-spatial difficulties that typically accompany dementia. People with early dementia may also fall more often because they forget about and trip over items in their home that they were once in the habit of stepping over or around.

If a loved one is falling down more often, they’re also at risk for serious injuries and fractures. This is especially true for people who suffer from progressive supranuclear palsy, a movement disorder that can affect their balance and ability to catch themselves as they fall.

5. Repetitive Behavior and Resistance to Change

People with dementia may also start repeating the same behaviors over and over again. They might forget that they already shaved first thing in the morning and end up shaving again. Or, they may continue to buy crossword puzzle books every time they go to the store, even though they have stacks of them in their living room already.

In addition to these repetitive behaviors, it’s also common for people struggling with dementia to resist changes to their routine. They might be afraid of new experiences, especially if they’ve recently gotten lost or had another scary experience related to their memory starting to fail.

How to Respond to Signs of Dementia

If you notice any of these common signs of early dementia in a parent or loved one, it’s important to respond appropriately to limit frustration and make things easy for them and yourself.

Some things to do include:
  • Help them establish a daily routine
  • Give them plenty of time to accomplish tasks
  • Give them choices and let them be involved in their care
  • Remove extension cords, loose rugs, and other potential fall hazards
  • Invest in a fall mat to prevent injuries from falls
  • Keep lighters and matches out of reach and make sure smoke alarms are working
  • Install in an alarm system with a wearable medical alert button
  • Invest a GPS tracker in case they wander away and get lost
It’s easy to feel helpless when a parent or loved one starts acting strangely. But, if you’re aware of these common signs of early dementia, you can get them the treatment they need, slow the progression of their disease, and prevent serious accidents.

This is a guest blog entry.

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