3 Symptoms That Can Lead To Dementia
Dementia is a progressive condition that leads to severe deterioration of mental health and bodily functions that eventually ends up interfering with everyday functioning and activities of life. There are numerous symptoms that indicate towards the presence of dementia. They fall under 3 main categories: cognitive changes, psychological changes and behavioral changes.
These categories further encapsulate several other symptoms like depression, disorientation, difficulty in problem solving, paranoia, anxiety, personality changes, etc. While all these symptoms may or may not lead to dementia, there are 3 major symptoms that are most commonly associated with dementia, which are as follows:
- Memory loss and confusion
More often than not, memory loss and inability to remember things are one of the first few signs and symptoms of dementia. In the initial stages, these lapses in memory and thinking might be mistaken for everyday forgetfulness that one may experience during old age.
However, it can result into a full-blown persistent and severe memory loss. This memory loss typically includes forgetting recently learned or acquired information. Other instances may include forgetting important dates and numbers, names and appointments, asking for the same information to be repeated again and again, or having to rely on memory aids like sticky notes, reminders, etc. In some cases, while people may sometimes forget important things, chances are that they’ll be able to recall the forgotten information easily.
In the later stages, people with dementia might even fail to recognize familiar people, places or things and also experience bouts of confusion.
In the initial stages of dementia, the occurrence of confusion and memory loss is slow and more on the milder side. At this stage, the person is usually aware of the changes taking place within him such as difficulty in processing said information or a failure to recall a recent event. These changes often also result in high levels of frustration in the patient, which is quite natural.
Slowly and gradually, these symptoms tend to worsen and in the later stages, the person experiences severe memory loss and may even forget her close loved ones, like children or grandchildren. They will also be confused about things like time and location, call family members with different names, or even forget the purpose or use of common and everyday items like a spoon or pen, etc.
While the common causes of memory loss and confusion can be many, in dementia, it particularly happens due to progressive and gradual damage to brain cells which is usually caused by Alzheimer’s disease – one of the most common and frequently occurring types of dementia.
- Language and communication problems
Language and communication problems are among the other first few symptoms that are visible in the relatively earlier stages of the disease. The problems include difficulties with speech and being unable to recall common words or phrases.
In the initial stages, people with dementia may be able to carry normal conversations but might forget or miss out on a word or two. They may also face difficulty in resuming a conversation after being interrupted.
However, with time, in the later stages, these language problems become more frequent and noticeable. They start facing difficulties in forming full, coherent sentences and tend to jump from one topic to another without completing the first one.
It also becomes harder for people with dementia to learn or remember new words, phrases, expressions and they may find it complicated to hold several ideas in their minds at a time.
Difficulties in language also eventually give rise to communication problems. With the onset of dementia, there is a gradual loss of communication where the caregivers of the patients also experience great difficulty in understanding or connecting with them. This goes both ways as the patients too cannot understand what others are saying as it becomes increasingly hard for them to keep up with and follow rapid or high-pitched speed.
In later stages, along with repetitive use of certain words and phrases, people with dementia begin to babble the same words, where they can no longer say what they want or express themselves with words. While in some cases people still manage minimal communication, for others, it may get to a point where there is no trace of communication at all.
In the worst cases of this symptom, along with the lack of ability to understand and form sentences, people may start facing difficulty in recognizing their own name and people around them. However, in spite of that, they still might respond to and understand touch from family or caregivers as touch is also one of the most important means of communication.
Difficulty with everyday tasks and activities
Activities of daily life (ADL)
Alongside memory and communication problems, difficulty in managing everyday tasks and activities is also a common symptom of dementia which can trigger the onset of the disease. People with dementia experience a severe kind of disability which is characterized by an inability to perform activities of daily life (ADL).
ADL can occur in two forms, instrumental ADL and basic ADL, where the former type includes complex higher order skills and the latter involves self-maintenance skills like bathing. This also happens due to a decline in executive functioning which affects a person’s ability of organizing, sequencing and planning where carrying out multi-step activities can be quite hard and challenging.
Decline in motor ability
When this symptom occurs, everyday tasks can become extremely problematic and hard to manage. With a gradual decline in cognitive and mental abilities, people with dementia also experience deterioration in their motor control and ability. This makes it harder for them to manage their life independently as they fail to carry out regular tasks and perform those activities that are necessary to live independently.
In the later stages of dementia, people may face problems in carrying out activities in their proper and prescribed sequence. Normally, people do things and carry out daily-life activities automatically without thinking too much. With dementia, however, simple tasks like wearing clothes or making tea can be very difficult. Not just that but it is also no longer obvious to people what to do first and how to go about their daily activities.
Types of difficulties
The list of these everyday tasks and activities can be really long; however, typical difficulties include forgetting how to do commonly-done things like operating the microwave, difficulty in remembering the order of things e.g. putting on your shirt before the tie, inability to recognize objects and their purposes like how a comb is for combing your hair, etc.
While these symptoms aren’t the only ones that can lead to dementia, there is no denying the fact that these factors can easily worsen over time and make life challenging for people living with this condition.
It is also true that not every symptom will affect every individual in the same manner. For instance, for someone with dementia going through severe phases of memory loss, he or she might be able to recall bits and pieces at later times, while others may lose their memory for good. In either case, it is extremely important to protect your brain and body.