Are you concerned that a family member is losing their short-term memory? Are they having trouble cooking, paying bills, and driving? Have they forgotten how to get to their favorite restaurant or the rules to a favorite card game?
Worldwide, there are more than 50 million people who have dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the more common forms of dementia and accounts for about 70% of all dementia cases.
If you’re wondering about the early signs of dementia, this article is for you. We’ll talk about how to spot dementia and the link between stress and illnesses.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a progressive illness that causes loss of memory and changes in personality and behavior. It’s caused by damaged nerve cells in the brain, and may be reversible in some patients.
There are several forms of dementia that can’t be cured, including Alzheimer’s and Lewy Body dementia. Vascular dementia is also common, and can be caused by a stroke or disease that damages the blood vessels in the brain.
Dementia can also show up as a result of a head injury, but symptoms can be dormant for years. It’s also linked to Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
In general, people with dementia gradually lose their short and long-term memory. They may also lose the ability to chew solid food and to speak. But what causes dementia in the first place?
Chronic Stress Risk Factor
There have been recent studies that point to chronic stress disease as a risk factor for dementia. The problem with stress is that it makes people depressed, which can wear down their immune systems.
Stress also damages the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that governs memory. We all have stress in our lives, but traumatic life events can lead to depression and an overall decline in memory function.
If you think that your loved one has dementia, you might want to visit your local physician. Their personal doctor will have met with them dozens of times and should notice any personality changes. They can also make referrals to doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating dementia.
Additional Causes of Dementia
There are some additional risk factors for developing dementia. Researchers have noticed that people with low levels of Vitamin D are at a higher risk for developing dementia. The same thing goes for people who don’t exercise and who have a poor diet.
If your loved one’s dementia is a result of a stroke, a problem with their metabolism, or medication, it may be reversible. While they can’t change a family history of dementia, they can work to avoid it through proper diet and exercise.
In general, anything that damages the body’s blood vessels could also target the blood vessels in the brain. People who have played football, for example, could be at very high risk of developing dementia. If they’ve had several concussions over the years, it may have permanently altered their mental functioning.
Early Signs of Dementia
Getting a diagnosis of dementia can be difficult: the signs are subtle and can vary from person to person. There are some signs, however, that are commonly found in people with early dementia.
They may not want to participate in their favorite activities, and they may have trouble finding the words they want to say. They may also have short-term memory loss and trouble following directions for a recipe, for example.
Another early sign of dementia is a radical change in personality. Your loved one may be extremely irritable, depressed, and have no energy. They may be angry because they’re unable to communicate. And they may lash out in a physical way.
You might also want to look for a set of symptoms called “sundowning.” That means that your loved one’s confusion peaks in the late afternoon and early evening. Sundowning can be hard to deal with, but it is an early indication of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
If you’re the sole caregiver for a person with dementia, try to take care of yourself as well. It’s okay to take breaks and to find an in-home medical aide.
You may be feeling overwhelmed and wondering whether you should find a 24-hour care facility for your loved one. It’s a difficult decision, but it’s important to consider all of your options.
Memory Care Facilities
If your loved one does get a diagnosis of dementia, you have several treatment options. You can get in-home health care, provide the care yourself, or look for a reputable memory care facility.
It’s important to remember that not all assisted living situations are the same. You’ll need to look for one that completely meets your loved one’s needs.
Common services include laundry service, cleaning services, dietary plans, and entertainment. While you may want to have your loved one remain at home, assisted care facilities can provide 24-hour support.
Memory care facilities offer special services to people with memory loss. They might have a listening session where they play music from your loved one’s favorite era. They also have dance and exercise classes to help clients retain their muscle tone.
How to Get Started with Senior Living
To get started with assisted living, your loved one has to get formally diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. If you suspect that they have the early signs of dementia, make sure to go to their doctor immediately.
Another option is to have them take an online quiz. It’s not a replacement for the doctor’s office, but it’s something you can show the doctor when you go in.
When you take a tour of an assisted living facility, you should always talk to the nurses and doctors. How many staff are on duty at once? Is there continuing education for the staff about memory loss?
We take a customized approach to finding the best assisted living placements. Send us a quick email or request a tour online for more information. We care about your loved one’s health and happiness, and are looking forward to meeting with you!