Dementia is a term that describes a range of symptoms that indicate an overall mental decline. It can be difficult to determine whether a person is suffering from dementia or age-related, memory loss because many of the symptoms are the same. When diagnosing dementia, physicians must take into account many different factors and combine them to determine if the early stages of dementia are present. There are many early signs of dementia, and if you know some of these you’ll understand how to best care for it.
It is important to remember that one incident of memory loss does not mean your loved one has dementia. These signs and symptoms must occur repeatedly over a period of time in order for them to indicate the early stages of dementia.
Along with memory lapses, at least two core mental functions must be significantly impaired for it to be considered dementia. They include:
- Communication and language
- Ability to focus and pay attention
- Reasoning and judgment
- Visual perception
If your loved one has dementia, they may exhibit normal, age-related symptoms of memory loss combined with these symptoms. For example, if your loved one is forgetting appointments or why they entered the kitchen, those are signs of normal, age-related memory loss. However, if your loved one forgets appointments regularly and becomes uncharacteristically frustrated or depressed, that could indicate the signs of early dementia. Likewise, if your loved one begins to forget how to put dishes in the dishwasher, that is an early sign of dementia, as compared to forgetting why they entered the kitchen. Here are some of the other factors that physicians look for when diagnosing dementia:
- Difficulty finding the right words
- Changes in mood
- Apathy or listlessness
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Difficulty following story lines
- Being repetitive
How can you care for the early stages of dementia?
Be patient and gentle. Do not embarrass your loved one by becoming impatient with their memory loss. Instead, begin to support them with lists, reminders and labels on household objects. For example, if you see that he or she repeatedly forgets where the glasses are kept, label the cupboard with a sticky note that says “Cups and Glasses”.
Have your loved one assessed by a neurologist. A physician can conduct tests to determine if your loved one is indeed suffering with dementia. If it is Alzheimer’s disease specifically, there are some medications that can delay the progression of symptoms.
Adjust daily schedules and the home environment to meet your loved one’s needs. Confusion will increase with the dementia. Schedules should be simplified. Daily tasks should made as easy as possible. Your loved one will need more assistance with daily grooming, preparing meals and processing information throughout the day.
Consider home care professionals for support. In-home care professionals can help you to understand dementia and provide essential daily support for your loved one. They can help with grooming and bathing, meals and recreational activities to stimulate the mind and body.
Early dementia can be frightening and worrisome for everyone involved. help. Luckily there are tips on how to care for early stages of dementia that can make the transition easier. Knowing more about the disease can help you to plan and care for your loved one in a way that will soothe and comfort them.