5 early signs of dementia in your elderly parents that you mustn’t ignore

The early signs of dementia can be subtle enough to go unnoticed. But catching this affliction in time can help your parents lead a better life.
Is your parent getting forgetful? It can the first sign of dementia. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Updated: 31 Mar 2020, 18:00 pm IST
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There is hardly anything enjoyable about growing old. Losing body strength and being dependent on others can be demoralising for the elderly. One of the biggest challenges that an advanced age brings along with it is dementia.

Marked by a deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities, dementia affects around 50 million people the world over according to the WHO.

Dementia affects different people in different ways depending upon the impact of the disease, age and the person’s personality before becoming ill. In fact, it is easy to overlook the early stages of dementia in our parents because the onset is gradual and may seem not that alarming.

But ignoring the symptoms of dementia can come with its own set of perils in the life of your parents and affect their quality of life. If you don’t want that to happen, then pay attention to these signs:

1. Short-term changes in memory
Characterized by subtle changes, memory troubles can be a sign of the early onset of dementia. Your parent might be able to remember things from their childhood, but not recent happenings.

As per a study by the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, stress reduction, physical activity, healthy diet and mental activity could be ways to keep cognitive functions intact during dementia.

2. Difficulty finding right words
Problems in communication could be another early symptom of dementia. Those suffering from it could have problems explaining things or might have issues finding the right word to express themselves.

early signs of dementia
Troubling remembering things and confusion are some of the earliest signs of dementia that you must pay attention to in your parents. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

Scientists say that difficulties in communication are a common symptom in people with dementia. They are a consequence of nerve cell failure, and a person with dementia should not be blamed for them.

3. Mood swings
Depression is an early sign of dementia. In fact, mood swings during this time might also lead to a change in personality.

Scientists found that people who became depressed late in life had a 70% increased risk of dementia, and those who’d been depressed since middle age were at 80% greater risk.

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4. Apathy
Those showing early signs of dementia could lose interest in hobbies and other activities and showcase a general sense of apathy.

early signs of dementia
Dementia alters the size of the brain and causes irreversible damage. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

A study conducted by researchers in the University of Exeter found that apathy is the most common neuropsychiatric symptom of dementia, with nearly half of all people showing the condition exhibiting a lack of interest in a variety of things.

Also read: 5 things you need to know about caregiving for a parent with Alzheimer’s

5. Confusion
Another sign of dementia is confusion. Studies show that hospital patients with dementia and underlying sense of confusion have worse treatment outcomes than those without the condition.

Failing in a sense of direction, being repetitive, and struggling to adapt to changes could be other early signs of dementia.

While Alzheimer’s disease remains the leading cause of dementia, it could also be caused by brain damage due to stroke, Huntington’s Disease (a hereditary condition where the brain’s nerve cells gradually break down), Lewy body dementia (disease involving abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in brain) and frontal lobe dementia or Pick’s disease.

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