10 Warning Signs of Dementia

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Overview of Dementia

Dementia is the umbrella term for a person’s decline in memory and other cognitive abilities that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is not a normal part of aging.

It is estimated that approximately 50 million individuals (5 million in the US) are living with Dementia. This number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 75 million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care for Henrico, VA4 Truths about Dementia

  • At least two parts of the brain are dying
  • It keeps changing and getting worse – progressive
  • It is not curable or fixable – chronic
  • It results in Death – terminal

4 main types of dementia

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Frontotemporal Dementia


Warning Signs of Dementia

  1. Memory Loss That Disrupts Daily Life
  2. Challenges In Planning or Solving Problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgement
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood or personality

Respite-Care-Henrico-VA1. Memory Loss That Disrupts Daily Life

Dementia Warning Sign Characteristics

  • Forgetting recently learned information
  • Forgetting important dates or events
  • Asking the same questions repeatedly
  • Increasingly needing to rely on memory aides
  • Dependence on family members for things the person once handled on their own

Signs of Normal Aging (not Dementia) – Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Develop a predictable routine and schedule
  • Support with any frustrations they feel; talking through issues and looking for ways to manage
  • Support the person with the difficulties they face on a day to day basis, rather than focusing on what might happen in the future
  • Focus on what they can still do and encourage them to continue
  • Encourage spending time with other people and to take part in meaningful activities

2. Challenges In Planning or Solving Problems

Dementia Warning Sign Characteristics

  • Changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan
  • Challenges working with numbers
  • Trouble following a familiar recipe
  • Trouble keeping track of monthly bills
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Simple tasks can take much longer to do than before

Signs of Normal Aging – Making occasional errors when managing finances or household bills.

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Be realistic in your expectations. Decrease the amount of responsibility you expect your loved one to have while still maintaining their sense of independence
  • If you see they are struggling to know what to do next, start an activity for them and gently cue them on next steps
  • Supporting your loved ones sense of self and dignity is important for both of you. It also protects your relationship

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks

Post-Surgical Care in Henrico, VADementia Warning Sign Characteristics

  • Hard to complete routine tasks
  • Trouble driving to a familiar location
  • Trouble organizing a grocery list
  • Trouble remembering the rules of a favorite game

Signs of Normal Aging

  • Occasionally needing help with settings and apps on a cell phone
  • Occasionally needing help to record a TV show

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Simplify tasks like dressing:
    – Use Velcro fasteners
    – Don’t insist on matching outfits
  • Try to do things in the same place and at the same time each day
  • Make suggestions when they seem lost or confused
  • Keep things simple! Help the person with tasks that are too demanding

4. Confusion with time or place

Dementia Warning Sign Characteristics

  • Losing track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time
  • Trouble understanding something if it’s not happening now
  • Where am I?
  • How did I get here?

Signs of Normal Aging – Getting confused about the day of the week, but figuring it out later.

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Stay calm
  • Communicate with simple explanations, along with photos and other thought provoking items to remind the PLwD of important relationships and places
  • Travel with the person to where he/she is in time
  • Offer corrections as suggestions. Avoid explanations that sound like scolding
  • Try not to take it personally

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

caregiverDementia Warning Sign Characteristics

For some, visual problems are a sign of dementia which may lead to:

  • Trouble reading
  • Trouble judging distances
  • Trouble determining color or contrast
  • Trouble with driving

Signs of Normal Aging – Vision changes due to an eye disease such as cataracts.

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Never approach a PLwD from behind – always approach from the front or side because he/she can no longer sense you approaching from the rear
  • Eventually the PLwD will not be able to see you approach from the side due to the decline in visual capabilities.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing

Dementia Warning Sign Characteristics

  • Trouble following or joining a conversation
  • Stopping in the middle of a conversation and not know how to continue
  • Repeating themselves over and over again
  • Struggles with vocabulary
  • Trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name

Signs of Normal Aging – Sometimes having trouble finding the right word(s).

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Be Patient
  • Learn to interpret – Try to understand what is being said based on context
  • Be connected
  • Be aware of non-verbal cues
  • Offer comfort
  • Avoid criticizing, correcting, and arguing

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

elder care at homeDementia Warning Sign Characteristics

  • A person living with dementia may put things in unusual places
  • The person may also feel paranoid or have delusions, so they may try to hide or protect them
  • They lose the ability to re-trace their steps to find misplaced items
  • They may accuse other of stealing, especially as the disease progresses

Signs of Normal Aging – Misplacing things from time to time and having to re-trace your steps to find them.

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Consider a hoarding box or drawer where the PLwD can put objects they want to keep safe
  • Try to work out the PLwD seems to hide thigs, then show him/her you are helping them to find the “lost items”
  • Keep a spare set of things that are often misplaced, such as glasses or keys
  • Don’t leave important documents or items lying around.

8. Decreased or poor judgement

Poor judgment is one of the hallmarks of Dementia. In fact, while a typical symptom of early stages of Dementia is short-term memory loss, poor judgment can sometimes precede memory loss. Poor judgment refers to the inability to make appropriate decisions

Dementia Warning Sign Characteristics

  • Making poor decisions when is comes to money and other financial decisions
  • Paying less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean
  • Safety and Danger recognition

Signs of Normal Aging – Making a mistake once in a while, like forgetting to change the oil in the car timely.

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Assess the extent of the problem
  • Review checkbooks, bank statements and bills
  • Minimize the frustration and embarrassment by offering subtle help
  • Do Not blatantly question the person’s ability to take care of the situation at hand or try to argue with them. Only makes them angry and puts them on the defensive.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities

home care agencyDementia Warning Sign Characteristics

  • Changes in the ability to hold or follow a conversation. As a result, he or she may withdraw from:
    – Hobbies
    – Social Activities
  • When a person living with dementia is aware of their loss of abilities, they may develop poor self-esteem and lose confidence, which in turn could lead them to withdraw from others

Signs of Normal Aging – Sometimes feeling uninterested in family or social obligations.

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Encourage engagement
  • Take a gentle approach
  • Focus on strengths and abilities
  • Honor their remembrances
  • Practice active listening.

10. Changes in mood or personality

Dementia Warning Sign Characteristics

  • Mood and personality changes. They can become:
    – Confused
    – Suspicious
    – Depressed
    – Fearful
    – Anxious
  • Easily upset at home, with friends or when out of their comfort zone
  • Display adverse behaviors

Signs of Normal Aging – Having a very specific way of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

Tips for Supporting a Person Living with Dementia

  • Check the environment for uncomfortable conditions
  • Distraction may become necessary
  • Soothing is important
  • Talking to avoid meltdowns.

Dementia Resources

Assisting Hands Home Care
1606 Santa Rosa Rd., Suite 125, Henrico, VA 23229
(804) 500-9787
Contact: Cathy Hamlin, Executive Administrator

Teepa Snow
www.teepasnow.com
P.O. Box 430, Efland, NC 27243
1-877-877-1671

DARS
Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services
1610 Forest Avenue, Suite 100, Henrico, VA 23229
804-662-9333 or 1-800-552-3402
Contact: George Worthington

Alzheimer’s Association
Greater Richmond Chapter
4600 Cox Road, Suite 130, Glenn Allen, VA 23060
804-967-2588 or 1-800-272-3900
Contact: Marie Kolendo, Executive Director

AARP Virginia
707 East Main Street, Suite 910, Richmond, VA 23219
1-866-542-8164

 

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