A symptom of dementia most people are familiar with is forgetfulness. Confusion is another. These are the two that are talked about most often. But there are other signs of the disease that aren’t as obvious. If you are an adult child of a senior who is exhibiting some changes in personality or behavior, you may be wondering if something is wrong.
While dementia occurs primarily in adults over the age of 65, it isn’t a natural part of the aging process. It’s important to understand the difference between normal aging and dementia, and to recognize some of the lesser known symptoms of the disease.
Dementia by the Numbers
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50 million people worldwide have dementia. Every year, 10 million new cases are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s accounting for nearly 60 to 70 percent of these diagnoses.
In the United States, over 5 million people live with Alzheimer’s disease. As baby boomers grow older, this number is expected to climb. Some experts estimate that 14 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s by 2025. It’s a significant increase that we all need to take seriously.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Dementia
1. Change in disposition: If a senior loved one’s disposition has noticeably changed, it might be a sign of dementia. For example, if your always bubbly mother has become paranoid or quick to anger, it is something to watch and discuss with her and her doctor. It might be that she’s experiencing an emotional struggle of some kind, but it could also be the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
2. Problems with money: Because older adults are often targeted for scams, it’s easy to overlook their falling victim as a warning sign of dementia. Poor judgment can be a red flag, especially for Alzheimer’s. Other red flags include making purchases a senior can’t afford or loaning money to unfamiliar people. An adult with dementia might also have utilities turned off for failing to pay their bill.
3. Withdrawing from social activities: When a senior recognizes something is wrong, they may begin to self-isolate. Often because of embarrassment or fear. They don’t know what is happening, and are reluctant to leave their safe place—home. An older adult who is experiencing memory loss may stop attending religious services, give up cherished volunteer work, and put off seeing friends.
4. Tough time writing: Another warning sign of dementia is difficulty writing. Whether it’s an email or a grocery list, short-term memory loss makes organizing thoughts and getting them down on paper hard to do. If you find half-written checks or scribbled, illegible lists around an aging family member’s home, it’s something you’ll want to discuss.
5. Loss of empathy: Someone with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia may appear to be less empathetic than they’ve always been. If you don’t realize something is wrong, the change in behavior can be hurtful to loved ones. It’s important to know that this change in personality is the result of both physical and emotional challenges dementia creates.
If any of these symptoms could be used to describe an aging loved one, consider talking about it with the senior and their primary care physician.
There are a variety of treatable health issues, such as an infection or thyroid problem, that mimic dementia.
As one of the country’s leading providers of memory care services, our team members are always available to answer questions for family members. Call the Sunrise Senior Living community nearest you today!