Dementia is not a disease, but rather a group of many symptoms that indicate a brain disorder. The term is often used to refer generally to a decrease in cognitive ability and memory problems.
It occurs when healthy neurons (nerve cells) stop functioning or brain cells become damaged and die. Many factors put a person at risk of dementia, such as aging and family history.
Other risk factors include excessive use of alcohol, excessive smoking, atherosclerosis, high and low blood pressure, high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), depression, diabetes, high estrogen levels, and high levels of homocysteine in the blood (an amino acid your body produces).
There are many different types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia (DLB), Parkinson’s disease, mixed dementia, and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
Each type of dementia has its own signs and symptoms. However, in the initial stage, some common symptoms appear.
10. Short-term hidden memory loss
One of the first signs of a cognitive problem is memory loss. In the case of dementia, people especially suffer from short-term memory loss in the early stage. For example, they may forget recent events, forget the name of someone they know or a celebrity, or they may not be able to remember tracks or places.
Because of this amnesia, they may ask the same questions multiple times. This occurs due to brain damage caused by inflammation and other biological changes that disrupt communication between brain cells.
A 2015 study published at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) indicates that people with dementia may begin to lose consciousness of memory problems a few years before the disease appears. Gradual amnesia can become severe enough to disrupt daily life.
9. Difficulty communicating ideas
Another indication of dementia is the difficulty in communicating thoughts and ideas. In simple terms, this means that the person is having trouble explaining things to others.
Verbal and written communication may be difficult. The lack of depth and logic in the conversation may also be evident.
This can be associated with memory loss, such as forgetting the name of the person with whom he is speaking or even forgetting simple words. Thus, having a conversation with someone with dementia can be very difficult and time-consuming.
8. Get confused often
During the initial stage, a person often shows signs of confusion as well as a lack of focus. Due to memory loss and difficulty in communication, confusion arises. Confusion can happen with regard to time and space.
For example, dementia patients may be confused with regard to the present, past, and future. They may even forget where they are or how they got there.
Besides confusion, they may find it difficult to focus and may take longer to do more things than they did before. Gradually, the stage of confusion may develop into delirium.
7. Misplacing Things
It’s okay if you lose your things, like car keys or your mobile phone, from time to time. But when a person frequently mistakes in things and doesn’t remember where to find them, he may point to some kind of cognitive problem, including dementia.
During the early stage of dementia, people not only mistake things but keep their things in unusual places. They also lose the ability to track their steps. When they don’t find things, they sometimes accuse other people of taking them.
If you make a mistake in putting something but you can track your steps to find the missing item, it may simply be because of age, not dementia.
6. Fast agitation and mood swings
Changes in mood and become increasingly depressed, suspicious, frightened, or anxious can indicate dementia. Mild depression is common in people with dementia.
A 2012 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry indicates that depression that begins late in life increases the risk of dementia.
Due to frequent mood swings, there may also be changes in a person’s personality. For example, one can become outgoing rather than be shy. A person may also bother easily when out of their comfort zone or when the routine is disrupted. These early signs of mood swings are not easily recognizable in oneself but are easily noticeable in others.
5. Difficulty determining humor
Another early sign of dementia is lack of cynicism or the inability to discover cynicism. Any type of neurodegenerative disease may destroy a person’s ability to understand and recognize indirect languages, such as satire, even deception.
A 2015 study published in the journal Alzheimer’s Diseases suggests that humor may be a probe sensitive to social cognitive impairment in people with dementia. Indeed, humor can be used as an attractive and useful indicator of social performance in degenerative neurological diseases.
4. The lapse of judgment
It may be difficult to make the right decisions and judgments. When one’s thinking ability begins to deteriorate with the onset of dementia, the effect on a person’s judgment and logical abilities can be seen.
One may find it difficult to judge the distance, the shape of the body, and they may make mistakes in money, etc. For example, they may have problems solving everyday problems such as what to do if the bathroom is flooded or they use poor judgment when dealing with money.
3. Frequent Falling and Tripping
People with cognitive impairment often travel on two legs, causing them to fall off from time to time. This occurs when they encounter visual and spatial perception problems, which increases the risk of frequent falls.
In fact, balance and walking problems are often present even if one has mild cognitive impairment.
If you or someone you know is falling out frequently, talk to your doctor about it as it may be an early indication of a cognitive problem.
2. No initiative or indifference
Another symptom of early dementia is lack of initiative or indifference. A person may slowly lose interest in hobbies or activities that they have been enjoying in the past. This person may show less interest in going out with family members or friends.
Alternatively, a person may prefer to sit in front of the TV for hours without showing any interest in what is being broadcast or prefer sleeping for hours.
Apathy is common in the early stages of some types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s and frontal temporal dementia.
1. Ignore grooming and personal hygiene
Since dementia has an effect on the brain, people often forget to brush their teeth, shower daily, brush their hair, trim their nails, change their clothes, and even forget to use the toilet.
Slowly, they started to show absolutely no interest in grooming and personal hygiene. They may not remember when they took a bath or brushed their teeth the last time. They may even refuse any kind of assistance as an attempt to maintain their self-respect.
Other possible signs and symptoms of dementia:
- Problems dealing with funds, or dealing with numbers.
- Slow thinking.
- Difficulty finding the right words or other language problems.
- Skip the lines while reading.
- Difficulty planning and implementing activities that require organization.
- Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities.
- Loss of motor skills, sense of touch, and smell.