Dementia is a condition that can be described as a group of symptoms rather than a specific disease. It presents itself mainly in the form of memory impairment, communication troubles, and faltered thinking. Stemming from multiple causes, the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 60 to 80% of all the reported cases. Globally, approximately 47.5 million people are living with this condition with its occurrence increasing by the minute.
The progression of dementia can be categorized into different stages depending on its severity. This helps in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of patients. Generally divided into 3 phases: mild, moderate and severe, multiple new in-depth assessment tests now classify the illness into more types.
Various scales are employed for evaluating dementia in order to better understand the illness by assessing functionality and cognitive decline. The most commonly employed scale for the task is the GDS scale, also referred to as the Reisberg Scale, and this divides dementia progression into 7 stages:
Diagnosis is mostly detected when a patient has reached Stage 4 or beyond because Stages 1-3 do not typically exhibit any symptoms. Stage 4 is referred to as early dementia. Stage 5 and 6 are termed as middle dementia, and Stage 7 is considered late dementia.
Dementia has many different types; each resulting from a specific underlying cause and thus presents its own unique set of symptoms. However, there a few early signs of the illness that can help you confirm its presence.
Following are 7 early identifying signs of dementia and mental deterioration:
Short-term memory changes are early identifying symptoms of dementia. Although subtle, these changes are the ones to be wary of. In many cases, older adults happen to remember a memory from years ago but fail to recall details as recent as what they had for breakfast the same morning. Forgetting items in certain places and struggling to remember them or forgetting appointments and other tasks are common presenting signs of altered short-term memory. Another finding in such patients is repetition, primarily because they fail to recall whether they have completed a particular task or not.
Due to altered thinking and fluctuating memory, it is particularly difficult for dementia patients to converse with others. This is a challenging task for both the patient and the attendant. Problems in communicating their thoughts are a common finding in people suffering from dementia. Patients often find it hard to explain what they are thinking and struggle to find the right words to get their message across.
Mood changes are widespread in dementia patients owing to the multiple prevalent changes in their mind. Dementia patients often struggle to recognize this change in themselves, but it is important for friends and family to notice any difference in mood. Depression is a common early presenting sign of dementia. Altered thinking directly affects one’s judgment; therefore, it is not rare to come across patients exhibiting a shift in personality. They also develop disinterest towards their surroundings including family, friends, activities and hobbies.
The inability or incompetence to finish routine tasks is a good indication that someone has early dementia. The progression with this goes from struggling to finish complicated tasks that require active thinking, such as doing paperwork, to familiar and straightforward tasks, such as washing dishes, taking out the trash, etc. The hesitance to learn new things or follow a new routine are all signs that the person is experiencing some kind of mental deterioration.
This confusion arises owing to multiple reasons such as memory loss, lack of judgment, impaired thinking and struggling with language. Patients in the early stages of dementia often seem lost in their own imaginary world, but in reality, they are just trying to place the pieces of the puzzle together. Their scattered thoughts disable them from performing simple routine acts such as communicating openly with others, organizing their thoughts, or expressing their emotions.
The disintegration of spatial orientation and a sense of direction starts rather early in dementia. It disables a person from remembering familiar routes, landmarks, and regularly employed paths. People with dementia find it difficult to follow directions as they are unable to follow back-to-back instructions. Their minds are unable to register new information quickly; therefore, it is not uncommon to find a dementia patient getting lost in familiar territory.
Adapting to change is difficult not only for dementia patients but for everyone. However, for dementia patients, adapting to change is somewhat of a nightmare as they struggle to recognize familiar faces and places; therefore, for them, new experiences are slightly daunting. Many patients express the need for a routine, so they know what to expect instead of having to deal with new circumstances every day. Standing in the face of change, patients often are lost and find it challenging to cope with new surroundings as their minds are unable to register the change. Unfamiliarity owing to memory loss changes leads to fear and fear further leads to confusion, alterations in mood, and thus to an overall difficulty to survive.
Dementia is a complicated condition that is hard to pick on, especially during its early stages. Mental deterioration progressively gets worse with age. If ignored, its symptoms get worse and ultimately leave the patient in a state that is hard to come back from. Brain science is an extensive field that is constantly welcoming advancements and breakthroughs. For the latest updates in the world of brain science, DementiaTalk is the platform that will give you access to reliable information and guidance related to dementia.
If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it is best to consult a doctor and move forward with screening tests, detailed diagnostic studies and treatment. There is often a hesitation on the patient’s part to see a doctor. Find a creative way to convince them to seek professional help and promote health consciousness at a community level.