How to Tell If a Parent Has Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Dementia is a neurodegenerative condition of the brain that is characterized by cognitive impairment. Dominant losses occur in the spheres of communication, memory, reasoning, and thinking. The ailment culminates in symptoms that stretch along the lines of behavioral, psychological, and cognitive changes.
The mental health condition profoundly interferes with one’s daily activities, and as it progresses, it sips the life out of a person. As of 2017, the global number of people living with dementia added up to 47 million according to the WHO. These numbers are forecasted to balloon to 75 million by 2030.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, as it accounts for 60-80% of the dementia cases. Presently, there are nearly 5.7 million patients of Alzheimer’s in the US with the disease being the sixth chief cause of death in the country. In fact, the mental ailment traps a patient within its fold every 65 seconds.
The primary victims of the disease are elderly that stand at the age marker of 65 or above. 1 in 10 people who are aged 65 and older tend to develop Alzheimer’s disease. In several cases, the subtle early symptoms of dementia go unnoticed and are mistaken as signs of aging, accounting for late diagnosis.
Late diagnosis of the chronic illness has a widespread impact including economic aftershocks. The Alzheimer’s Association points out that $7.9 trillion can be saved in care and medical costs with early diagnosis. All these staggering statistics ring some warning bells in your mind, leaving you wondering if your parent has dementia. Here is a look into which signs should trigger the warning alarm for you and your loved one:
Disruptive small slips in memory
As a person ascends the age ladder, it is typical for him to forget a thing or two, for instance, an appointment. Forgetfulness is common. However, memory loss that accompanies the development of Alzheimer’s dementia is disruptive. It obstructs the day-to-day activities of a person, which differentiates it from the memory loss that comes with aging.
Memory losses in the case of dementia are mostly related to freshly acquired information. You may notice your parent forgetting about significant dates, asking repetitively for the same information, and increasingly relying on memory aids. Your parent may also depend more on you or others to remember things for him.
Difficulty in planning or problem-solving
Another telltale sign of a person slowly sliding into the grips of Alzheimer’s dementia is having trouble while planning. It is common for such a person to find it onerous to chalk out a plan and follow it. This disruption applies to familiar activities that he performed smoothly in the past. For instance, your parent might face challenges in pursuing a recipe or managing his finances.
Apart from looking for such signs, you may also notice that your parent maybe taking more time in doing an activity that he previously handled within minutes. These problem-solving issues also entail complications when dealing with numbers. These issues are far more frequent than the occasional errors committed while balancing checkbooks in aging.
Research highlights that poor decision making is a consequence of cognitive decline that occurs when a person grows old. If your parent makes a wrong decision once in a blue moon, then it is nothing to worry about. However, you must be alert to pick increased trouble in coming to a conclusion on the part of your parent.
A case in point is your parent ending up giving large sums of cash to telemarketers. Your parent might also be paying less heed to his grooming.
Mood swings also come among the early hallmarks of this neurodegenerative disorder. Studies indicate that behavioral changes occur long before the clinical diagnosis of dementia. Thus, it is an excellent breadcrumb to pick if you are trying to figure out your parent’s mental wellbeing.
Frequent mood swings are exhibited in the form of irritation, confusion, anxiousness, agitation, fearfulness, and depression. Your parent may also start becoming upset easily at work, home, or at a social gathering or places where they are not within their comfort zone. Healthy aging parents mostly just become irritated when their routine is disturbed or so. There is always a specific reason for their distress, which is not so in the case of a person who has dementia.
Although extreme behavioral changes only show in the later stages of dementia, subtle slips in behavior may show from early on. Some of the differences in demeanor include apathy, delusional thinking, paranoia, insensitivity to people, and loss of interest in hobbies.
A study traced the correlation between behavior and cognitive impairment. It found out that 88% of the patients with Alzheimer’s disease showcased measurable behavioral alterations. The same study also compared behavioral changes associated with healthy aging and people with the AD. It found out that the prevalence of apathy as a part of the personality change was the highest at 72%. Agitation, anxiety, and irritability follow it at 60%, 48%, and 42% respectively.
Problems with words or speaking
Communication problems provide more hints that confirm the onset of dementia. This may be showcased in your parent as having trouble in joining a conversation and facing difficulties in proceeding with what to say. The victim may also forget about what they said and even repeat himself in an attempt to get his point across.
It is common to see a parent struggling with their vocabulary bank as part of the communication glitch taking root due to dementia. Do not misinterpret this with your loved one hiccupping in the search for the correct word. In early dementia, your parent may struggle with words and give the wrong name to a thing too.
When a parent sails to his old age, it is unexceptional of him to lose a television remote or the like. But if your parent’s brain is gradually becoming enveloped with the disease, then he may frequently misplace things. In such a case, a person forgets where he put his belongings and is unable to retrace his steps.
Progressively, as the disease grips the patient, the problem of misplacing things gets worse. Furthermore, your parent may even accuse someone of stealing the lost item because they can’t seem to find it.
Confusion regarding time and place
The foremost indication of Alzheimer’s disease also includes confusion related to time and place. The disease’s prey may lose track of seasons, passage of time, and dates. Sometimes, your parent might forget about his surroundings as well. Dr. Maree Farrow, the cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Tasmania, explains this.
She says, “You might be out somewhere and suddenly forget where you are. Or you might be in a shopping center and not know what direction to go in.” She also adds that generally when one of us gets lost, we tend to stop for a moment and then eventually work out where we are or where we ought to go. However, it is not the case with someone who is suffering from dementia. This is one of the earliest signs exhibited in people with dementia.
Problem with spatial relationships or visual images
Someone who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s dementia may also develop vision problems. Such visual problems do not fall within the scope of age-related vision concerns like cataracts. In some instances, vision problem is another marker pointing toward the psychological illness. It shows itself in barriers in judging distance, reading, or determining color, patterns or contrast.
This issue comes to a perception crescendo too. Your parent might look in the mirror and misconstrue the image as someone else. He might not even recognize himself in the mirror.
In a nutshell, several small signs speak volumes about the developing disease. Communication problems, memory lapses, confusion, behavioral and mood changes are all pointers of early dementia. As the condition proceeds, these only aggravate.