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Can you recognize 10 early warning signs of dementia?
Are you concerned about memory problems? An early dementia diagnosis can help individuals gain more control of their lives by taking the necessary steps to live better with the disease.
Although a diagnosis of dementia can be devastating, many people feel relieved once they have received an explanation for the symptoms they are experiencing.
Test your knowledge. Do you know the 10 early warning signs of dementia?
1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day function. It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments, colleagues’ names or a friend’s phone number and remember them later. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may forget things more often and not remember them later, especially things that have happened more recently.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks. Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may leave the carrots on the stove and only remember to serve them at the end of a meal. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble with tasks that have been familiar to them all his or her life, such as preparing a meal.
3. Problems with language. Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s disease may forget simple words or substitute words, making his or her sentences difficult to understand.
4. Disorientation of time and place. It’s normal to forget the day of the week or your destination – for a moment. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home.
5. Poor or decreased judgment. People may sometimes put off going to a doctor if they have an infection, but eventually seek medical attention. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have decreased judgment, for example not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.
6. Problems with abstract thinking. From time to time, people may have difficulty with tasks that require abstract thinking, such as balancing a chequebook. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have significant difficulties with such tasks, for example not recognizing what the numbers in the chequebook mean.
7. Misplacing things. Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in inappropriate places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
8. Changes in mood and behavior. Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can exhibit varied mood swings – from calm to tears to anger – for no apparent reason.
9. Changes in personality. People’s personalities can change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn. Changes may also include apathy, fearfulness or acting out of character.
10. Loss of initiative. It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, and require cues and prompting to become involved.
If you recognize the symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in yourself, a friend or family member, contact your doctor to discuss your concerns.
The Alzheimer Society of B.C. has further resources that can help guide your discussion with the doctor. Visit our website, www.alzheimerbc.org, for help.
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