What is Dementia?

Dementia is not a disease in itself but a broad range of brain diseases that cause a gradual, long-term decrease in the ability of a person to remember things that is severe enough to hamper daily activities. A person with dementia may have problems with cognitive functioning including memory, visual perception, language skills, reasoning, problem management, self-care and the ability to focus and pay attention.

Some people may have problems controlling their emotions and their personalities may change.

What causes Dementia?

Dementia is basically caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to pass messages, affecting the persons thinking, behavior and feelings. The causes of dementia can vary, depending on the types of brain cells that are damaged.

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50-70% of dementia in older adults. Other common causes include vascular dementia (25%) that occurs after a stroke, Lewy body dementia (15%) that involves deposits of abnormal clumps of protein in the brain cells, frontotemporal disorders, Parkinson’s Disease, etc. Many other conditions can cause symptoms of dementia. Some conditions are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.

Early Warning Signs

The early signs are very subtle and vague because most types of dementia progress slowly; therefore, by the time the person shows signs of the disorder, the process in the brain has been going on for some time. Symptoms also vary from person to person.

Dementia was often in the past referred to as “senility” or “senile dementia,” which was a part of a previously popular but medically incorrect belief that severe mental decline such as that associated with dementia is a normal part of aging. It is important to recognize early symptoms of dementia and not confuse them with aging. Moreover, you can get help from different centers of memory care near Boise.

Subtle Memory Changes

Memory trouble is one of the earliest signs of dementia. In the beginning stages, the changes affect short-term memory and are usually subtle. Long-term memory in most cases remains more or less intact, e.g., the person may be able to recall events that happened a long time ago, but may not remember very recent events such as what they had for lunch, and recently acquired information will be more difficult to retain.

Other subtle changes may include an increasing tendency to forget where they placed certain things, or not being able to recall why they entered a room. Such people might start relying more and more on memory aids such as reminder notes, alarms, etc.

What’s Normal: Sometimes forgetting names or misplacing things but recalling them soon after.

Challenges In Problem Solving Or Formulating Plans

Another early sign of dementia may be a decrease in the person’s ability to formulate or follow plans. They may also have problems with numbers. Because of this, these people may not be able to manage their finances and may have trouble paying bills or keeping track of subscriptions. Following simple recipes may also become a hassle.
Such people also tend to experience changes in judgment or decision-making, e.g., they may not be able to rightly decide what to wear when it’s cold or hot. These lapses in memory make them more susceptible to monetary scams.

What’s Normal: Making occasional errors with numbers and taking bad decisions once in a while.

Being Repetitive

Repetition is common in people with dementia because of the general behavioral changes and memory loss. This can manifest in conversations and daily activities.
The person may repeat daily tasks multiple times because they forget that they have already done it, e.g., they may continue to brush their teeth over and over or take a bath several times. They may also start repeating questions and statements in a conversation several times.

What’s Normal: They have trouble recalling a conversation they had recently or the answer to a question they just asked occasionally is common with most people.

Difficulty In Performing Familiar Tasks

A subtle change in the ability to perform routine tasks may indicate that someone has early dementia. They may have trouble driving to previously frequented locations or they may not be able to manage budgets. They may have difficulties at home or work and may not be able to play games while following rules. Enjoying the things they enjoyed in the past may become an issue. They may struggle to learn new things or follow new routines and may crave familiarity.

What’s Normal: Needing help at times in operating some appliances or in doing some particular task.

Disorientation and Confusion

People with early dementia may have trouble recalling routes to familiar places like their homes or local stores and may get confused about where they are and how they got there. They may have problems keeping track of the time, season or year and may imagine themselves to be in previous times.

Because of the memory lapses, thinking and judgment are impaired. They may often become confused as they find it difficult to remember faces, names or even the right words to say. They may misplace commonly used things, forget people they met recently or forget what they have to do on a daily basis.

What’s Normal: Getting confused about the date or day but remembering it later.

New Speech or Writing problems

People with early dementia may have problems following or joining in on conversations. They may not be able to complete conversations or sentences and they may repeat the same thing again and again. They may have problems with vocabulary and struggle to find words during conversations. They may not be able to express themselves and communicate their feelings properly, so conversations with them may take longer.

What’s Normal: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

Behavioral Changes and Apathy

Behavioral changes are common in people with dementia. Their moods and personalities tend to change. They tend to have rapid mood swings for no real reason. They tend to be confused, suspicious, depressed, anxious or fearful. If they are out of their comfort zone, they might get upset easily.

A common shift in personality in dementia sufferers is a change from being outgoing to withdrawn. They may start being less social and lose interest in hobbies and activities they were once eagerly involved in. They may not want to go out and may lose interest in spending time with family and friends. These people become emotionally apathetic.

What’s Normal: Occasionally feeling tired of the daily routine, people and social obligations. Getting irritated if their routine is disturbed.