Identifying possible signs of dementia

Memory loss is a key and conspicuous symptom of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, but dementia causes many other changes that can result in dysfunctional behavior.
Forgetting things does not mean you have dementia. It happens to all of us. “Where are my keys?” “Where did I leave my coat?” Relax, you very likely don’t have a problem.

An individual with abnormal memory loss will begin to repeat him or herself, often asking questions you have answered within the past few minutes. Short term memory is affected first. A person with dementia may recall events from the past, but not remember what they did an hour ago.

Having trouble with simple and familiar tasks can be an indicator of dementia. For example, managing money, remembering medications, or driving safely are examples. This can result from both cognitive and physical problem. For example, motor skills will decline and a person with dementia may find it difficult to button a shirt or tie his shoes.
Forgetting common words or miss-naming things can suggest encroaching dementia. Confusion as to time and place can be a symptom as well. This, combined with degraded judgment and motor skills, is why it is so dangerous for a person with dementia to continue to drive.

Degraded judgment can include jumping to unwarranted conclusions, which can include paranoia. Remember our talking about losing your keys? Rather than trying to remember where he left the keys, a person will dementia may immediately jump to the conclusion that someone has stolen them.

A person with dementia may begin to place things in odd and unusual places. They may begin to hoard and create hiding places where they tuck things away.
If you or a loved one exhibits some of the behaviors described above, A) Don’t panic and jump to conclusions, and B) Don’t withdraw into denial. These extreme and opposite reactions are not helpful.

Some of these symptoms can be caused by correctible problems. For example, thyroid gland malfunction, dehydration, and urinary tract infection can result in dementia-like behaviors. These are relatively easy problems to deal with.
The proper reaction to concerns about abnormal behavior and loss of memory is screening and diagnosis as early as possible. You may be able to rule out dementia. Finding out your problem is not dementia but something simple and curable will give you and your family immeasurable peace of mind.

And, if screening results in a diagnosis of dementia, it is good to know early because there are medications that can benefit quality of life during the progress of the disease.
Fortunately, in Citrus and Hernando counties, screening is available at no charge at Meridien Research in Brooksville. Another valuable resource for information is the Alzheimer’s Family Organization located in Spring Hill. You can reach them at 352-616-0170.

If you have questions, please e-mail me at [email protected] or call 352-422-3663. I’ll try to help, because my slogan is: We all deserve the best!