Dementia is a general term that described a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills, including judgement, reasoning and complex motor skills. Though there are different types dementia-related illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common in persons aged 65 and older, and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia (LBD, an umbrella term that refers to both Parkinson’s disease dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies), frontotemporal dementia, and alcohol-induced dementia. Dementia-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are NOT part of normal aging.
Is it Dementia?
It is important to keep in mind that not all memory problems are a result of dementia. There are a number of other causes of memory issues, including vitamin deficiency, thyroid problems, urinary tract infections, medication side effects, stress, and depression. Many of these are readily treatable and, in some cases, curable.
If you have noticed memory or personality changes, in yourself or someone you know, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional. A comprehensive medical evaluation can help identify the cause of memory changes and point you in the right direction. Your healthcare provider may also refer you to a neurologist for more in-depth testing.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease; however, there are several medications, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that can help slow the progression of the symptoms of the disease and prolong cognitive function.
Warning Signs & Symptoms
The following are some common warning signs and symptoms of dementia. Keep in mind that each individual is unique and may not exhibit all of these symptoms. Always consult a physician to discuss changes in memory and thinking abilities.
- Difficulty finding words
- Trouble completing complex mental tasks, for example tasks with multiple steps, balancing a checkbook, paying bills
- Confusion about time, place or people
- Misplacing familiar objects
- Personality changes, such as irritability or depression
- Loss of interest in important responsibilities
- Expressing false beliefs
- Changes in judgement/trouble making decisions
Take Action, Educate Yourself
The more you know about dementia and its warning signs, the better prepared you will be to recognize them in yourself or a loved one and to intervene early on.
Early detection of memory problems can afford a person an opportunity to participate in vital care planning discussions, including legal and financial decisions, long-term care and end-of-life wishes. It can also afford a person the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial or take advantage of mediations that can help slow the progression of symptoms and maintain a positive quality of life.