Everyone experiences bouts of forgetfulness, regardless of age. But as you and your loved ones get older, do you wonder if it’s the onset of dementia?
Dementia: Definition vs. False Symptoms
You’re talking to a friend about a movie you love—but you can’t remember the title. You just saw it! That example would not be a symptom of dementia.
Forgetting names or where you put your sunglasses is most commonly a result of other factors, non-neurological ones. Memory loss that does not disrupt you from carrying on your day with normalcy is common—especially if you’re under stress.
Types of Stress That Create Forgetful Symptoms
Adults have stressors that could cause us to be concerned for our mental health. Midlife stressors tend to be the most pronounced. Women, in particular, experience brain fog around menopausal years. Menopause and hormonal changes may interfere with memory, but mostly the culprit is stress.
Some stressors that might make us think we’re beginning to suffer from dementia are: work, parenting, aging parents, finances, and health concerns. The effects of these factors lead to a lack of sleep, anxiety, and depression. All of those contribute to minor cognitive temporary impairment. But it’s still not dementia.
Dementia and Its True Signs
By medical definition, dementia is a severe decline in mental ability where daily life is significantly disrupted. There are several different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common, accounting for 60-80 percent of cases.
There are a handful of particular signs that may point towards the existence of dementia. The symptoms start out gradually and get worse over time. Some are:
Confusion with locations. Often the person doesn’t know where they are or where they need to go.
Confusion with time. There’s a disorientation of time of day or even of what year it is. Sometimes the patient is confused about his/her own age.
Challenges with following or joining conversations. Words become problematic either in writing, speaking, or both.
Losing items. Many times the items are misplaced, but the patient claims they’re lost. They also often become paranoid that people are stealing their “lost” belongings.
Inability to retrace steps. With full cognitive ability, we’re able to retrace our steps to rediscover where we’ve been and what we’ve done. Dementia patients cannot do that.
Change in attention to detail. This could be personal grooming or finances, for example. A person with dementia might freely donate an irrational amount of money to a cause they’d never been involved with before. They may stop bathing or eating regularly.
All of the above are serious symptoms and clearly, affect the person from carrying out daily tasks without assistance.
Dr. Victor W. Henderson, a Professor at Stanford University, points out that midlife dementia is rare. Two-thirds of those over 60 years old with dementia are linked to having Alzheimer’s.
He does claim, however, “Cognitive impairment and dementia are (also) linked to health and lifestyle factors.” So taking care of oneself throughout life may impede the onset of such a condition.
Proper nutrition is a tremendous factor in maintaining good health. Of course, proper rest and stress-reduction also play a beneficial role. Other activities that are important are physical and mental ones. Experts agree that exercising your muscles as well as your brain can help boost memory and enhance neural efficiency.
Fresh foods, fresh air, good friends, and a challenging crossword puzzle are just some of the tools we can keep close by to keep dementia at a distance.