Dementia is one of the most frightening experiences a person can have. It’s not only difficult for the person who is developing dementia, but it’s also devastating for family, friends, and loved ones. Identifying the earlier signs of dementia and learning about treatment available to help you cope with its development can make this extremely difficult time a little easier on everyone involved.
One key factor to understand is that dementia occurs in stages and levels of cognitive function will vary. During the early stages, it’s often not even apparent that there is a serious problem. After all, who hasn’t experienced the occasional memory lapse or forgotten something now and again?
The early signs of dementia and other issues regarding mental health are often subtle and early diagnosis is often overlooked. And when a loved one starts acting strangely it can be hard to tell whether it is, in fact, serious cognitive impairment or just the natural “slowing down” that comes with age.
If you do notice any potential signs of a serious problem or you’re concerned and you’re not sure what to think, it’s best to contact a professional for a complete evaluation. This can put your mind at ease or ensure you have the tools needed to cope with whatever is to come.
Early Signs of Dementia
Most people associate dementia with memory loss, but this is rarely the only symptom. If an older person experiences a lapse in memory, you don’t need to automatically assume they’ve developed dementia. Typically, dementia is a collection of symptoms that can be linked to a variety of different causes. In addition to issues with memory, early symptoms of dementia might include:
-Issues with Language and Communication
A common early warning sign of dementia is the inability to “find the right words” to communicate. Most of us have experienced this to some degree in our lives, but someone in the early stages of dementia will struggle to communicate their thoughts and have trouble explaining themselves. Conversations might take longer and the person speaking with the one with dementia might feel frustrated or unsure what they’re being told.
Familiar tasks can become extremely difficult for someone developing dementia because they are unable to focus or remember the steps in a given process. They will likely also have a difficult time following a storyline and might struggle with entertainment they once enjoyed.
People in the early stages of dementia tend to have a very tough time emotionally. Many know that something is amiss, but they aren’t sure what exactly is happening and the feeling is frustrating and scary for them.
This fear and uncertainty can express itself as seemingly irrational anger or depression. Many people in the early stages of dementia might also seem apathetic or lose interest in the hobbies and activities they once loved. This is due, in part, to their inability to focus and understand these activities, but also because changes are happening in their brain.
-Unable to Problem Solve or Use Reason
In the early stages of dementia, sufferers tend to become more easily confused and lose the ability to remember faces or interact with people normally. They might be repetitive or require directions to be given to them several times. Familiar places might suddenly become confusing to them and if changes are made in their environment, they can overreact to them.
Though the early signs of dementia can be subtle and it can be tempting to dismiss them, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. This allows you to determine whether there is really a serious problem and, if so, begin treatment as soon as possible.
Treatment for Dementia
Traditional treatment for dementia has two goals: to slow its progression and help the patient cope with the symptoms.
Medications are available for treating symptoms of dementia and for reducing the risks of other health issues that are often linked to dementia.
The two most common types of medication prescribed for slowing cognitive decline are cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Medication might also be prescribed for controlling hallucinations and agitation, insomnia, and depression.
It’s important that medication is administered by a medical caregiver or family member, especially as the disease progresses. Because memory loss and confusion are so often linked to dementia, it’s too easy for a patient to forget whether or not they’ve taken their medicine for the day and accidentally take too much. Even those in the early stages of dementia should be closely monitored when medication is involved.
In addition to medication, there are other treatments available for helping people live with dementia. Occupational therapy and physical therapy can be effective in helping patients with early dementia.
Lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on a person with dementia’s quality of life. Getting adequate sleep, staying active, eating a healthy diet, and spending time with friends and loved ones can help to manage many of the emotional symptoms of the disease and reduce a person’s risk for other health problems. Co-occurring conditions can make dementia even more of a burden, so it’s important to maintain health as much as possible aside from the primary concern.
-The Enhance Protocol
In addition to medication and therapy, some new research by Dr. Dale Bredesen and others has lead the way to new treatment protocols for Alzheimer’s disease. At Avista Senior Living, we have several communities that offer an innovative new program called the Enhance Protocol. The Enhance Protocol offers an Alzheimer’s treatment program that can slow and, in some cases, reverse cognitive decline.
Dementia may not yet have a definitive cure but it is possible to live a fulfilling life; especially during the early stages of the disease. It’s also possible to slow down the effects of brain function decline, which is why it’s so important to act early if you suspect you or a loved one is having symptoms of dementia.
If you have a suspicion that a loved one may have dementia, contact your doctor and book an appointment for a full evaluation as soon as possible. If your loved one has already been diagnosed with dementia, feel free to contact our dementia experts at 480-418-9691 to learn more about the Enhance Protocol.