Growing older increases the likelihood that someone may develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that it is not a normal part of aging and most seniors will not get it.
Currently, about five million people, or four percent of people in the United States, have some form of dementia. The risk of developing it doubles about every five years.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s. Being aware of the early signs of dementia can enable treatment to begin early. Some researchers believe that most cases are never detected in the early stages.
It may be because doctors do not usually inquire into someone’s mental status during regular visits. Early detection can help slow the disease and enable seniors and caregivers to start to learn to cope with the disease.
Early Symptoms of Dementia
Although it will differ somewhat between people, there are some symptoms that are likely to be evident. You may see:
- Difficulties with communication – have a hard time struggling to express their thoughts or think of words.
- Repetition – the individual may tell the same story or ask the same question repeatedly.
- Forgetting important memories – the forgetting of events normally important to the individual may indicate the presence of dementia.
- Changes in personality – show signs of being confused, fearful, anxious, or suspicious. Depression may also occur. They may also become less inhibited.
- Difficulty in thinking things through – find it difficult to make plans or solve problems.
- Orientation problems – get lost easily – even when in familiar places.
- Difficulty with everyday tasks – things they have done often can be forgotten or only partially remembered – such as eating or getting dressed.
- Loss of Initiative – show little interest in their favorite activities, business activities, friends and family.
Benefits of an Early Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Even though there may be what appears to be symptoms of dementia, there is the possibility that other things could be behind it. Health issues such as sleep disorders, deficiencies of certain vitamins, drug or alcohol abuse, or thyroid disease can produce similar symptoms. Detecting these issues could resolve these problems if present.
Getting an early diagnosis can enable you to get early support and treatments. There is time to become more informed about what help is available, caregivers have time to learn how to best help, and you can get focused on new goals such as travels, retiring, getting your estate in order, etc.
Studies about dementia are always taking place. Knowing early that you have dementia, once diagnosed, can enable you to participate in studies or clinical trials – possibly giving you the newest beneficial Alzheimer’s disease treatment, or alternative treatment.
Getting a Dementia Diagnosis
Once dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is suspected, getting an official dementia diagnosis is necessary to receive treatment. A doctor can diagnose dementia rather accurately by performing a physical exam to eliminate other possible causes, lab tests, and understanding the changes the person has experienced in the way of thinking, behavior, memory issues, etc. A doctor may not be able to identify an exact type of dementia because more than one type may occur at the same time.
There are currently no treatments available that can completely eliminate the disease. Medications are available that can reverse some of the symptoms and possibly slow the disease’s progress. The medications can help improve the patient’s quality of life and increase their longevity.