I don’t know about you, but for me, there is nothing scarier, as we age, than the thought of losing my mind.
While most of my friends and family think I lost my mind several years ago, I am talking about something a little more serious than making bad decisions. You’ve heard the phrases and maybe even spoken these statements – “My grandmother was senile.” “My grandfather had Old timers (Alzheimer’s).” “My mother doesn’t even know what day it is or what my name is.”
The fact is that your elder loved one could have been more than simply "senile".
Do you know the early warning signs of dementia-related diseases?
As you know, I like to use musical references in my articles. Perhaps you remember the hit song by Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”:
“I remember when
I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions have an echo in so much space”
Dementia Is An Umbrella Term:
Let me clarify, the term "dementia" is an umbrella term. It encompasses the normal mild cognitive decline that comes with aging, all the way to other, more complicated, dementia related diseases such as; Alzheimer’s and Lewy Body Dementia. This month, let’s look at the signs and next time, let’s look at some ways to prevent cognitive decline. While there is not a cure for some of the dementia related diseases, there are ways to keep your mind sharp as you age.
Losing My Mind – The Early Warning Signs of Dementia:
“If you forget to take a shower for several days, it could be really serious.”
Cognitive and physical decline happens in most aging adults. We can’t jump as high. We can’t run as fast. And, we can’t sleep as well nor think as quickly. There is no way we can work an algebra equation; much less make change at a cash register. Few of us can still do a cartwheel. All of this is common with aging. If you call your oldest child by the name of your youngest child, or you lose your car keys, do not fret. This is common not only with aging but also with stress. However, if you sit through a stoplight and can’t remember how you got there, it might be more serious. If you don’t remember where the milk carton goes after you pour yourself a glass, it might be more serious. If you forget to take a shower for several days, it could be really serious.
Did you know that dehydration, isolation and some common illnesses can cause symptoms that look like dementia? It is common to have a family misdiagnose their parent with a dementia related disease due to side effects of medications or combinations of medications. Sometimes, even depression can look like dementia.
If You’re Worried:
“Mood swings, sleep disturbances, time confusion, change in eating habits, social dependence on family and withdrawal are warning signs”
If memory loss or confusion is interfering with daily life, it is time to get tested. Pay attention to the early warning signs of dementia. Mood swings, sleep disturbances, time confusion, change in eating habits, social dependence on family and withdrawal are warning signs that there is something more serious than stress and simple forgetfulness. Short-term memory loss and the retelling of stories on a continual loop are some of the first warning signs that warrant a trip to the doctor. First stop – your primary care physician. They can do some quick testing and refer you to the appropriate specialist while looking for other causes for the memory loss.
If there is a diagnosis of a dementia disease, there are a number of ways to manage that diagnosis and we will talk about that in one of our next sessions. If the diagnosis is simple forgetfulness, the primary thing we can do for mind health is take care of our physical health. If you want some ideas about ways to accomplish this, check out this article on 4 Ways To Protect Your Brain So You Can Age Well. In the meantime, become familiar with the signs, but don't add to your stress of forgetfulness by worrying about dementia.
If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of dementia and you don't know what your next steps should be, contact me, Cynthia Perthuis, for a free consultation. I can help you understand the disease and talk about what you should expect, as well as work out a plan of action with you.