The Alzheimer’s Association notes that 1 in 3 seniors will develop Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia at some time in their later years. Currently, about 5 million Americans suffer from dementia, and the numbers are expected to rise with the aging of the population. These individuals may exhibit a number of symptoms early in the onset of the disease. Recognizing these symptoms can help them to get an early diagnosis and a chance at more successful treatment.
Confusion in Conversations
Often, the first symptoms of the onset of dementia are problems in normal conversation. Individuals may have trouble following a conversation at work or in a social setting. They may make comments that seem out of sync or out of the blue. The individual may not be able to recall certain names or events when they are speaking. They may not remember conversations that took place quite recently. These are symptoms of a problem with cognitive function.
Individuals with dementia may also show unusual signs of restlessness at various times of the day. They may wander off, away from their family or work group, and even become lost. This may occur a number of times, with the individual eventually finding their way back without telling anyone they had been lost. However, as the episodes of confusion become more frequent, other people become aware of the problem.
Missing Money & Odd Purchases
Sooner or later, individuals with dementia will develop problems managing money. They may lose or misplace cash or be unable to keep track of credit or debit cards. They may make double purchases, re-buying supplies they have already purchased. In some cases, the purchases may be quite unusual, such as things they have never used and probably will never use. The individual may give unusual amounts to charities. These symptoms indicate that the person is probably no longer able to manage money and should be relieved of this responsibility as much as possible. He or she should be given a small amount of cash to use or a card with a purchase limit.
Trouble At Work
The individual may encounter difficulties at work because of their inability to remember or perform normal tasks. Co-workers may mention it in conversation to family members or joke about “absent-mindedness.” The individual may have difficulties with supervisors because of absences or lack of performance. These problems may be attributed to lack of interest in the job, but actually are related to the dementia. Some types of dementia can begin as early as the 40s or 50s. If sudden work problems occur without any discernible reason, it’s time to consult a physician.
Many people who have dementia show changes in their personalities and moods. Usually, these symptoms become more evident late in the day. During the afternoon or evening hours, they may become irritable or suspicious, hallucinate, or become weepy and sad. These mood changes are often quite unusual for the person and could be a sign that mental processes are not functioning normally.
As the person becomes aware of the changing nature of his or her thinking and memory, they may develop excuses for the unusual behavior. This attempt to cover up their inability to remember things and their lapses in judgment can become habitual, preventing others from helping them or getting them to a physician to find out what’s going on with their minds. Confronting them with the covering up is not helpful and can even provoke a defensive reaction. If you sense this type of covering-up behavior in your loved one, begin taking written notes on the occurrences so that you can discuss it with the individual’s doctor.
Evidence of dementia can be a shifting landscape of behaviors that can be difficult to identify. A frank discussion with your loved one’s physician can alert them to these disturbing signs so that further testing and diagnosis can be done.
If you have a loved one suffering from dementia, it can be extremely taxing on the entire family. Getting professional dementia care help is almost always necessary. With the help of a dedicated in-home care worker, family can focus enjoying their time with their loved one while the get help with essential activities of daily living.