Dementia might start with forgetting where the car keys are, that but then the person might forget how to use the key or where the car is that they might be looking to use the key on. There’s degrees of that memory loss which is one of the hallmarks (characteristics) of dementia. But it tends to be more profound and progressive. We all forget things all the time. The problem is, as we age, because we are worried about dementia, we might associate what is a normal loss of memory with that progression and most of the time it’s not. Potential red flags for dementia include
- forgetting who someone is
- forgetting how to do common tasks, such as how to use the telephone or find your way home
- inability to comprehend or retain information that has been clearly provided
e.g Getting lost in familiar settings is often one of the first signs of dementia. For example, you might have trouble driving to the supermarket.
Dementia therefore is a decline in cognitive functioning that may affect memory, thinking, language. However we often ask, “Isn’t forgetfulness a normal part of aging?” Yes, it’s absolutely normal to forget things once in a while. Memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia. There is a difference between occasional forgetfulness and forgetfulness that is cause for serious concern.
Dementia progresses differently in everyone. In its early stages, dementia can cause symptoms, such as:
- Not coping well with change. You may have a hard time accepting changes in schedules or environment.
- Subtle changes in short-term memory-making. You or a loved one can remember the events of 15 years ago like it was yesterday, but you can’t remember what you had for lunch.
- Reaching for the right words. Word recollection or association may be more difficult.
- Being repetitive. You may ask the same question, complete the same task, or tell the same story multiple times.
- Confused sense of direction. Places you once knew well may now feel foreign. You may also struggle with driving routes you’ve taken for years because it no longer looks familiar.
- Struggling to follow storylines. You may find following a person’s story or description difficult.
- Changes in mood. Depression, frustration, and anger are not uncommon for people with dementia.
- Loss of interest. Apathy may occur in people with dementia. This includes losing interest in hobbies or activities that you once enjoyed.
- Confusion. People, places, and events may no longer feel familiar. You might not remember people who know you.
- Difficulty completing everyday tasks. You may struggle to recall how to do tasks you’ve done for many years.
Later stages can include
- short-term memory lapses
- personality changes, including anger or depression
- misplacing things or forgetfulness
- difficulty with complex tasks or problem solving
- struggling to express emotions or ideas
- poor judgment
- increasing confusion and frustration
- memory loss that reaches further into the past
- needing help with tasks like dressing and bathing
- significant personality changes
The most common types of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease. The most common type of dementia, and makes up 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
- Vascular dementia.This type of dementia is caused by reduced blood flow in the brain. It may be the result of plaque buildup in arteries that feed blood to the brain or a stroke.
- Lewy body dementia. Protein deposits in nerve cells prevent the brain from sending chemical signals. This results in lost messages, delayed reactions, and memory loss.
- Parkinson’s disease. Individuals with advanced Parkinson’s disease may develop dementia. Symptoms of this particular type of dementia include problems with reasoning and judgment, as well as increased irritability, paranoia, and depression.
- Frontotemporal dementia. Several types of dementia fall into this category. They’re each affected by changes in the front and side parts of the brain. Symptoms include difficulty with language and behaviour, as well as loss of inhibitions.
Living with dementia can present a continuous challenge. Adjusting to rapid behavioural changes, emotional frustrations or skill loss can sometimes feel overwhelming, and is often a painful journey for both the person experiencing dementia and their loved ones.
At these times, you may wish to seek help from someone you trust such as a close friend or family member, or professionally through your local GP, or through counselling. Applecross Psychological Services can assist you with this process.