Are They Forgetful or Is It Dementia?

February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sometimes when visiting with an elder we find ourselves repeating a story or fact that we are sure we already told. Most of the time we rack it up to simple forgetfulness. “Maybe they didn’t hear me the first time or maybe they weren’t really paying attention.” But for some seniors lapse in memory is a sign of something more serious to come.

Commonly people assume dementia is just about memory loss, but there are actually different types of dementia and they have various causes. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, other causes include lewy body which can have physical symptoms like tremors and rigidity. People suffering from this type of the disease may also have a sleep disorder that forces them to thrash at night. Another common type is vascular dementia which is brought on after a stroke or heart attack. Dementia has also been know to come on with an infection, reaction to medication or nutritional deficiencies.

Whatever the cause, it is always best to consult your doctor early if you see warning signs of dementia. Early detection is extremely important because it will help determine how to manage a person’s dementia. Depending on the type of dementia and the cause, there may be medications that can help slow the degenerative process or even fully treat the symptoms.

The early signs of dementia may be slight and may not be immediately obvious because they can develop gradually. Most of the time family members tend to first notice memory lapses. Other early signs can include  confusion, apathy, withdrawal and the loss of ability to do everyday tasks.

Common dementia warning signs include (list courtesy of

  • Memory loss. Although older memories might seem unaffected, people with dementia might forget recent experiences or important dates or events that interferes with daily life. Anyone can forget some details from a recent event or conversation or recall them later. People with dementia might forget the entire thing.
  • Repetition. People with dementia may repeat stories, sometimes word for word. They may keep asking the same questions, no matter how many times they’re answered.
  • Language problems. We all struggle to remember a word occasionally. People with dementia can have profound problems remembering even basic words. Their way of speaking may become contorted and hard to follow.
  • Personality changes. People with dementia may have sudden mood swings. They might become emotional – upset or angry – for no particular reason. They might become withdrawn or stop doing things they usually enjoy. They could become uncharacteristically suspicious of family members — or trusting of telemarketers.
  • Disorientation and confusion. People with dementia may get lost in places they know very well, like their own neighborhoods. They may have trouble completing basic and familiar tasks, like cooking dinner or shaving.
  • Lack of hygiene. Sometimes this is the most obvious sign of Alzheimer’s disease. People who have dressed smartly every day of their lives might start wearing stained clothing or stop bathing.
  • Odd behavior. We all misplace our keys from time to time. People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are prone to placing objects in odd and wholly inappropriate places. They might put a toothbrush in the fridge or milk in the cabinet under the sink.

If you do suspect your loved one is suffering from dementia, the first step is to make an appointment with their doctor. Remember there are other conditions that have similar symptoms to dementia so it is important to seek a professional diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is reached your family can decide on a plan of action to care for your loved one.

If your family decides some sort of care facility is needed be sure to find a home that specializes in dementia and Alzheimer’s. These types of facilities will not only offer a safe environment for your loved one but they will also have a variety of care and activities that are designed to stimulate for the patient’s particular condition.

A diagnosis of dementia is most certainly difficult news to hear and unfortunately it is many times followed by even harder financial decisions that have to made especially if a care facility is needed. Consulting with an elder law attorney can help guide your family through the complicated world of long term care.

If you have any questions or need assistance planning for your loved ones future, please contact the Law Office of Dawn M. Weekly, PC. The law firm is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients. Their office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334.

  Every day of every week, Weekly Law is there for you.


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