The risk of developing dementia goes up for every year we live. Humans are living longer than ever before, which naturally means more and more people develop dementia every year.
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific subset of dementia, but there are many different variations of this umbrella disease characterized by progressive memory disorder, personality change, and impaired reason.
But how do you differentiate between normal aging and dementia? Is Mom’s forgetting to turn off the stove a memory lapse or a sign of something more serious? If I forgot to pay a bill on time, should I be worried?
There is no straightforward way to tell the difference between dementia and normal aging. The best way is to monitor your behavior or that of a loved one. Everyone has off-days. But if a behavior has become a disturbing trend, it’s time to visit a neurologist.
Here are 10 warning signs to look out for:
- Memory Loss: by far the most common and well-known symptom. Forgetting names, dates, appointments, and other items is a frightening and disorienting experience. If it happens every now and then, you probably just need more sleep. But if happens all the time—or you’re forgetting significant details like your spouse’s first name—it’s probably more serious.
- Difficulty with familiar tasks: when cooking, doing laundry, or using the telephone becomes difficult and hard to follow.
- Communication difficulties: your loved one forgets everyday words and phrases, and his or her writing is much harder to decipher.
- Confusion: this is especially so for time and place. When a senior gets lost on their own street, or forget where they are, it’s a serious sign of dementia.
- Poor judgement: dressing inappropriately for the weather, buying things they don’t need, or doing unsafe things like putting foil in the microwave can all mean dementia has taken hold of their judgement.
- Difficulty with abstract thinking: finding math problems harder than before can be a sign of dementia.
- Difficulty with spatial relationships: difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining color can all mean Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
- Misplacing things: inability to retrace steps. When you lose something, you’re usually able to retrace your steps and find it. When you notice you can’t do that anymore, or you’re putting things in weird places, it may be a sign of dementia.
- Mood changes: mood swings, increased anger, and unprovoked aggression are all common dementia symptoms.
- Withdrawal: skipping events, sleeping more, or neglecting oneself can all be signs of dementia. When someone is going through early dementia, they may feel frightened and unsure of themselves, so they’ll withdraw from the world.
If you notice your loved one has stopped participating in his or her own life, find out why. Dementia may be the reason.