March 26, 2012

The Final Five

In our last post, we started diffusing the confusion of dementia with 5 of the warning signs. We won’t keep you waiting any longer…

Here are the final 5 warning signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) to look out for in your elderly loved one:

1. Straining with Words — This includes difficulty with words in speaking or writing. Trouble joining a conversation, stopping in the middle of a conversation and not knowing how to continue, repeating information, struggling with vocabulary or finding the right word to use and calling things the wrong names (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”) are warning signs that call for a professional opinion.

2. Misplacing Things — Is your loved one putting things in unusual places? Is he or she losing things often and having difficulty retracing steps to find these items? Accusing others, even family and friends, of stealing is common and may occur more frequently over time.*

3. Poor Judgment — Changes in judgment and decision-making are big-time warning signs of dementia and AD. Look out for signs of poor judgment when dealing with money, like giving larger-than-necessary amounts to telemarketers or waiters. Another cause for concern is poor judgment related to grooming, cleanliness or choices in clothing.

4. Withdrawing from Others – Isolating oneself from hobbies, social activities or work projects is characteristic of dementia or AD. This may be due to embarrassment from the decline in mental abilities that he or she is experiencing. Look out for trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or forgetting how to complete a favorite activity.

5. Changes in Mood & Personality — Is your loved one acting in ways that are not consistent with his or her usual personality? Does he or she seem confused, suspicious, depressed, scared or anxious? Does your loved one get upset or frustrated easily, especially when outside of his or her comfort zone? If so, consult a doctor.

*This may be a subconscious coping mechanism to deal with the daunting frustration of losing one’s cognitive abilities. It’s important not to show frustration or anger if your loved one accuses you of stealing – emotional negativity and arguing won’t solve anything. Try to be calm and express that you would never hide or steal anything from him or her. But, as always, a medical professional or therapist would be the best source of advice on how to handle this delicate and distressing situation.

Remember, there is still a lot to be discovered and determined about dementia and Alzheimer’s. Hopefully, the ongoing trials will make more headway in diffusing the dementia confusion. But for now, just do your best to be aware. And keep in mind that most people affected by dementia show some, but not all of these signs; also, every individual may experience symptoms in different degrees. So if your loved one is experiencing any mental or personality irregularity that is causing you concern, consult a doctor. That’s always your safest bet.

We sincerely hope you found this week’s post informative and resourceful. Subscribe or stay tuned for next week’s posts, which will honor National Multiple Sclerosis Education & Awareness Month.