World Alzheimer’s Month: Understand the warning signs and symptoms of dementia
8 September 2020
Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of dementia, a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are warning signs and symptoms, but every individual may experience one or more of these signs to a different degree. One of the most common signs of dementia, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information.
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, and this September, for World Alzheimer’s Month, Livewell aims to encourage understanding, reduce stigma, and raise awareness around this common, yet devastating disease. Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of dementia, a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are warning signs and symptoms, but every individual may experience one or more of these signs to a different degree. One of the most common signs of dementia, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own. Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers.
They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before. People with dementia often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game. People with dementia can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there. For some people, having vision problems is a sign of dementia. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining colour or contrast, which may cause problems with driving. People with dementia may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand clock.”) A person with dementia may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time. People with dementia may experience changes in judgment or decision making.
For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. A person with dementia may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favourite sports team or remembering how to complete a favourite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
The mood and personalities of people with dementia can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. If you, or someone you care about is experiencing any of these warning signs, please consult with a medical professional. Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for your future.