April 3, 2013

You’re worried about your elderly loved one. She always had a great memory for details now she doesn’t remember where her keys are, or when her favorite show comes on.

Is this just a normal part of aging, or signs that something more serious is going on?

It’s important to catch symptoms of dementia right away. Sometimes, these symptoms can be caused by underlying medical conditions, which are treatable. Early treatment can slow the progression of even certain untreatable types of dementia, like Alzheimer’s.

Common symptoms of dementia include things you might expect, like memory loss, difficulty planning, difficulty communicating, and behavior changes. But there are other common signs of dementia that might surprise you. If your loved one is exhibiting any of these, get in touch with his or her doctor right away:

1.Problems with walking and balance. A 2006 study made the surprising finding that the earliest signs of dementia may be physical, rather than mental. Watch out for problems walking and balancing, as well as a weak handgrip.

2.Slips and falls. The symptoms outlined above can lead to frequent stumbling and falling. In one 2011 study of 125 older adults, people who fell most often during an eight-month period were found to also show other early signs of Alzheimer’s.

3.Inability to detect sarcasm or lies. If you have noticed that your loved one has become unusually gullible lately, she may be exhibiting the early signs of dementia. A 2011 study found that patients with certain degenerative brain diseases couldn’t tell when someone was using sarcasm or speaking untruthfully.

4.Staring. When we converse, we naturally move our eyes around. But someone with dementia might not–instead, you might notice them staring frequently. You might also notice this eye movement problem if your loved one skips lines when reading aloud.

5.Strange eating habits. Research is finding that different dementias often cause people to exhibit odd eating habits, such as a sudden strong taste for sweet foods, cramming food into their mouths, or even eating spoiled food or things that aren’t food.

6.Being hurtful. Your usually sweet, kind mother is saying insulting or inappropriate things, and seeming to show no concern for how they might be hurting or embarrassing others. This behavior is not a usual part of aging–it’s a common early sign of dementia.

7.Compulsive behavior. Many people like things done a certain way. But people in the early stages of dementia may exhibit strange obsessive-compulsive behaviors, such as locking doors over and over, or buying a can of corn every time they visit the store, even though they have a cupboard-full at home.

Tags:  dementia, symptoms, early signs, Alzheimer's