Forgetfulness seems to be common with people leading a stressful life in today’s fast paced world, but repeated episodes of forgetfulness in various situations should definitely raise an alarm. This is because forgetfulness or general loss of memory, although supposed to be a characteristic of aging, could also be a sign that may suggest an onset of a degenerative condition like – dementia. That being said, not everyone needs to worry about suffering from dementia with mere forgetfulness. Dementia is a condition that affects memory, thinking, judgment and behaviour with declining brain functions. At times, the condition can also be present alongside other degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Here are a few of the early signs that can suggest an onset of dementia, which you can notice in a loved one or an immediate family member to ensure prompt treatment.
Forgetfulness: The early signs of dementia usually set in as forgetfulness or subtle memory loss. Mild cognitive impairment is the stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging and development of dementia. However, this stage doesn’t always lead to the same. One should be wary about it only when forgetfulness interferes with regular daily activities. It might seem okay to forget the car keys or to find it difficult to recollect the name of a known face once a while, but if it becomes so severe that it disrupts the normal proceedings of the day leading to impaired judgment, difficulty in doing simple calculations, recollecting recent conversations, it should be given due attention. In other words, if forgetfulness sets in, in every aspect of a person’s life, it is warning enough to reach out to a neurologist for a thorough assessment of cognitive functions.
Mood swings: Symptoms of withdrawal are very common in people suffering from dementia, especially the ones who aren’t diagnosed with the same yet. It is generally noticed that with declining brain function one might just give up activities that he enjoyed the most before the condition took hold of him. It can further lead to personality changes and make one averse to socializing and meeting new people. Such activities in fact can give rise to extreme mood changes.
Behavioural changes: Brain impairment usually manifests in behavioural changes and it is no different with a condition like dementia. With dementia it can be possible that one experiences extreme behavioural changes. A jovial person might turn to be a quiet one and vice versa. Sometimes people suffering from dementia might also show characteristics like becoming talkative over a period of time or burst into sudden laughter for no reason. Aggression and anger, if it isn’t a behavioural trait, but seems to become common and is expressed more often can also be a warning sign, in an otherwise healthy looking individual.
Depression: This condition in itself needs medical attention. However, at times the underlying cause of it could be dementia. Signs of depression especially after age 50 can indicate a possibility of dementia too. Usually people reach out to a psychiatrist for treatment of depression. In such a scenario, the condition is only treated superficially and the other significant cause - dementia remains untreated. Hence the condition comes to light when it is too late.
Hallucinations: This symptom in fact indicates that dementia has progressed a little further, but if this is just the start, there is still time to get treatment and ensure better quality of life. People with dementia who suffer from hallucination find it difficult to differentiate their vivid dreams from reality. They might wake up numerous times at night unable to sleep in peace.
Gait changes: If dementia sets in with other form of degenerative disorder like Parkinson’s which might be in its nascent stage then some amount of gait change with forgetfulness is also noticed.
Incontinence: With declining brain functions and progress of dementia, urine and stool incontinence is a common occurrence too.
Apart from the above mentioned symptoms there could be other signs too that could indicate the onset of dementia. Remember that cognitive decline leading to dementia can manifest in different ways in different people. The above mentioned signs can also serve as warning, which if you pick up early can help you or your loved one get timely treatment and probably live a better quality of life.