Did you know that dementia affects more than 6.2 million Americans? That number is only going to grow in the years to come. Early diagnosis is key to helping those affected get the dementia care they need. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the early signs of mild dementia and why it's so important to recognize them. If you think that you or a loved one may be experiencing early signs of dementia, please don't hesitate to reach out for help! In a future blog post we will talk about resources for you and your family .
When a person is suspected of having dementia, it is important to perform a number of tests in order to make an accurate diagnosis. One common approach to diagnose dementia is using a brief questionnaire that measures a person's cognitive function and obtains a personal history. There are also a number of dementia tests that are used to help diagnose dementia, such as neuropsychological tests, blood tests, and brain imaging tests. The critical issue is to consider what type of dementia is affecting the individual. These considerations can be assessed by medical professionals.
Difficulties with dementia diagnosis
Dementia can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms can be similar to those of other diseases. It's important to perform a number of tests in order to make an accurate diagnosis. A person's age affects the likelihood of diagnosis. If you think you might have dementia, it's important to see a doctor as soon as possible so that they can perform tests and make an accurate diagnosis. Dementia is complex, so it's important to be aware of the symptoms and what to expect as the dementia progresses.
Causes of dementia
Dementia can be caused by genetic factors, other environmental risk factors that include certain illnesses or injuries to the brain, and other conditions such as vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia, and many times the condition is mixed dementia. Coronavirsus may now become a contributing factor that has similar symptoms like Brain Fog. There is some interesting early research on the long term effects on cognition of Long Covid. An important emerging cause of dementia is CCS- Chronic Concussive Syndrome, a condition experienced by athletes that sustain repeated head injuries over the course of their career. The genetic risk factors, determined with genetic testing that is commercially available, are important to understand and can assist with the diagnosis. For many individuals there is no known cause. There are many resources available that can help make life easier for those affected by dementia.
Preclinical Alzheimer's Disease
Memory loss can be a difficult thing to cope with, especially if it seems to be happening suddenly. You may notice that you're having trouble remembering things that happened just yesterday; you may begin to experience increasing difficulty with physical abilities such as routine tasks, like getting dressed completely, how to put away your groceries, or completing a check. You may notice changes in your sleep patterns. Earlier in the illness, it may be a friend or family member that notices or comments on behavior or recall of something important. If this sounds like you or your loved one, it may be time to see a doctor.
Importance of early diagnosis
Early recognition of dementia is important, as it can allow for more effective treatments and slow the progression of the illness and possibly improve functional life expectancy. There are many different stages of dementia, so it's important to be aware of the symptoms and what to expect as dementia progresses. If you or a loved one is dealing with dementia, it's important to seek out support and care and possible community programs to assist. There are many online resources available to help people worried about dementia. The Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer Foundation of America are two well know and valuable resources. The Alzheimer's Foundation of America uses MemTrax our Memory Test Online because they recognize the power and precision it provides. The National Institute on Aging also provides a wealth of information for families and caregivers looking for education on moderate dementia, severe dementia, personal care, Alzheimer's disease, and problem solving home care related issues.
The progression of dementia
Dementia can be defined as a progressive decline of cognitive functions. Although we often think of dementia in terms of clearly defined "stages" or a three stage model, that is really not helpful. Dementia is a progressive illness that usually begins with memory lapses or memory loss, and behavior problems may develop early or in the late stages of the illness as the disease progresses. Loss of most cognitive functioning and problem solving abilities occurs. Dementia can effect specific areas of the brain and progresses eventually to be effecting large areas of the brain.
How the Alzhiemer's disease type dementia's progresses
There is a fallacy in considering stages of dementia. In the past, dementia was broken down into up to seven stages, using a seven stage model, including, early stages, [preclinical Alzheimer's disease], middle stage/ moderate Alzheimer's disease/ moderate dementia, and severe dementia/ late stage / final stage, which were defined with a global deterioration scale. In reality, there is no specific stage of dementia or stages of Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive condition, for which there is currently no treatment to prevent or slow the disease.
The 3 descriptions along the progression continuum are:
1. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), early dementia, early Alzheimer's Disease
2. Early dementia, mild dementia, middle dementia, mild Alzheimer's disease [Moderate cognitive impairment]
3. Advanced dementia [severe cognitive impairment]
Mild Cognitive Impairment [MCI]
MCI is a condition that is often seen as a precursor or an early stage of dementia. Sometimes it's called early cognitive decline. It is characterized by forgetfulness and problems with memory, but the individual is still able to carry out their day-to-day activities. MCI can be caused by a number of different things, including Alzheimer's disease, stroke, or head injury. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of MCI, it's important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. An easy and very accurate way to track your cognitive abilities is an on-line assessment: MemTrax. [ Memtrax.com] You do not need special training or equipment to check your cognition and brain function.
Early Dementia: Moderate Cognitive Decline
As an individual progresses from early stages of dementia or cognitive impairment to moderate cognitive impairment, they may lose the ability to sustain focus, or recall recent conversations. For a family, this may precipitate questions such as how safe is our family member to live alone? To drive? Are the bills being paid on time? Is mail being opened and acted upon? Do they wander? Get confused or are unable to find their way to their home? Earlier stage Alzheimer disease begins with mild cognitive decline based on dementia research. Dementia in the early stage can also be a more mild dementia whereas a person's dementia might rapidly progress into severe dementia in a short amount of time during the later stages of Alzheimer's.
Early assessment and treatment interventions at this stage of the person's dementia may prolong an individual's ability to maintain independence and slow the progression of the illness. It is likely that one of the few medications on the market may be prescribed. You and your family may want to consider the possibility of enrolling your family member in clinical trials for some of the many possible drugs being evaluated to improve cognition during the early stage of dementia. Be sure to speak to your care provider about this topic and do discuss recent events and explain to them early stage, middle stage, and later stages as one idea.
Advanced Dementia: Severe cognitive decline
As an individual progresses and transitions from moderate to severe cognitive decline, an individual requires assistance in all activities of daily life. They have difficulty remembering loved ones, both alive and deceased. My mom would ask me at every visit if I'd had a note from or heard from her brother. He had been deceased for over a decade. She would often ask about her parents, both deceased. As the memory loss progresses, most of the time, the individual cannot recall any recent events but may be able to tell you in vivid and complete detail of something that had occurred 40 or 50 years ago!
It may be difficult to recognize names and distinguish familiar faces from unknown ones for the person. Basic skills such as counting and recognizing the alphabet can be challenging.
As the memory loss continues to progress, the individual forgets many basic habits. They may have difficulty feeding themselves, and with other motor skills such as chewing or swallowing; they need assistance with personal care such as bathing and staying safe and avoiding their increased risk of falls. At some point, they will become incontinent, losing control of the bowels and bladder.
Why is it important to understand how Alzheimer's disease progresses?
- The importance of early assessment and interventions.
- Initiation of cognition enhancing medications to treat dementia symptoms.
- Drug or therapy treatment trials.
- Engagement of family members to begin planning for the next steps in care and safety and to assist the individual to function independently as long as possible.
- Education of family members about the illness and ways to modify the environment, exercise for brain health, and how to communicate effectively with the ill family member.
- Time to spend in social activities as long as possible.
- Follow a Healthy Diet like The MIND Diet
A family story
Let me share a personal story with you. This is my sister's mother-n-law story.
Inga lost her husband while on vacation in Mexico. Until that time she was the wife of a very successful professor at an east coast university, well traveled and the matriarch of five boys and their families. A few years following his death the brothers began noticing a decline in their mother. She seemed disinterested in her appearance, choosing proper clothing was unmanageable for her; she had difficulty concentrating and disinclined to call them , her thinking ability seemed unfocused and they found her writing and posting notes to herself all over the house. They decided she needed a live in companion and they hired one. She was apathetic and was fine with their decision on her behalf. They suggested she might be more comfortable in a retirement community. She was adamant, NO.
Her physician saw her and thought she might be depressed and maybe 'just getting old' ... he felt the companion might help with the depression and provide emotional support.
Awhile after the companion started, the brothers got a phone call from the local police saying that their mother had been picked up several blocks from her home, barefoot and in her nightclothes, looking for her house. This was the catalyst that brought the brothers together to make a plan on behalf of their mother. She remained adamant about staying in her home, although it was clear it was unsafe, even with live in assistance. By the way, the companion was beside herself with remorse. She had helped get Inga ready for bed and was in another part of the house when she wandered off.
The brothers began looking in the community for a memory care environment for their mother. As is true in many communities, there was a waiting list. Because she had declined an opening when they settled on a companion, she was now at the bottom of the list.
By the timer an opening did occurred, her abilities had slipped even further. Complex tasks were a challenge. She was not able to dress or feed herself without help. She walked with help. She seemed to recognize her sons but was not able to call them by name. Her severe memory loss was effecting all aspects of her life.
This story has a peaceful ending. During her final stages, the sons were able to get her to a place that she would call home for the remainder of her life. The sons had been able to bring some of her most familiar furniture and sentimental objects. She felt comfortable and quickly adjusted to her surroundings. During the late stage, her passing was peaceful, dignified and her family felt she was in the right place.
It is important to understand how the mild cognitive impairment and dementia progresses so that appropriate interventions can be made. The earlier dementia is detected, the more likely it is that for the remainder of the life expectancy. Medications or therapy treatment trials can halt or slow the progression of the illness. This is a time for family members to be educated about the person living who is at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease affects. and ways to modify the environment to make it safer for their loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia. Social activities should be encouraged as long as possible to provide a sense of normalcy for those living with dementia.
Alzheimer's stages of dementia are generally classified in three stages:
Pre-dementia - This is the stage where individuals may experience some memory loss but are still able to live independently.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) - This is the stage where individuals experience more significant memory loss and may have difficulty completing complex tasks.
Moderate Dementia - This is the final stage of dementia where individuals lose the ability to complete even basic tasks and may require full-time care.
Pre-dementia, Mild cognitive impairment, Moderate cognitive impairment, Severe cognitive impairment, Late stage dementia.
The early signs of dementia are often subtle and can be easily overlooked. It is important to be aware of these signs and to act on them as soon as possible, in order to ensure that the individual receives the best possible care.
If left untreated, early stage Alzheimer's disease will eventually lead to dementia, which is the final stage of the illness. Individuals at this stage require full-time care from a caregiver or many caregivers or respite care and will have lost the ability to complete even basic tasks.
There are medications and therapies available that can help slow down or halt the progression of Alzheimer's disease or dementia, but it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Family members should also be educated about the condition so that they can provide the best possible support for their loved one who is living with dementia. Finally, it is important to encourage social activities as long as possible, as they can provide a sense of normalcy for those affected by this condition.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease or dementia, early detection and intervention can help improve the quality of life for those affected by this condition. It is important to be aware of the early signs so that you can get help for your loved one as soon as possible. With proper treatment, individuals with dementia can still enjoy many happy and fulfilling moments in their lives.
Early Signs of Dementia: Why It's Important to Recognize Them
One of the earliest signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease is difficulty with memory. If your loved one is having trouble remembering how to do things they've always done or is struggling to complete familiar tasks, it's important to get them checked out by a doctor.
Confusion about time or place is another common symptom of early-stage Alzheimer's disease or dementia. If your loved one gets lost easily or forgets where they are, it's important to seek medical help.
If you notice any of these early signs of dementia in your loved one, don't hesitate to seek medical help. With proper treatment, individuals with dementia can still enjoy many happy and fulfilling moments in their lives. Early detection and intervention are crucial in slowing down the progression of the disease and improving the quality of life for those affected. Get your loved one evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of these early signs of dementia.
Dementia, like Alzheimer's disease, is a degenerative disease that leads to cognitive decline and eventually death. Early detection and intervention are crucial in slowing down the progression of the disease and improving the quality of life for those affected. One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer's disease and dementia is difficulty with complex tasks. If your loved one is having trouble remembering how to do things they've always done or is struggling to complete familiar tasks, it's important to get them checked out by a doctor.
Forgetting recent events is another early sign of dementia. If your loved one is forgetting things that happened recently or has trouble recalling memories from the past you may be a person living with some one in need of help.
The Global Deterioration Scale
The Global Deterioration Scale (GDS) is a tool that doctors use to help diagnose Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. It is a seven-point scale that evaluates a person's cognitive function in five areas: memory, orientation, judgment and problem solving, language, and functional abilities.
The GDS is used to measure the severity of dementia and to help track the progress of the disease. A score of 1-3 indicates mild cognitive impairment, 4-5 indicates moderate cognitive impairment, and 6-7 indicates severe cognitive impairment.
If you are concerned about your loved one's cognitive function, ask their doctor to conduct a GDS test. This will help determine whether or not your loved one may be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Early detection is crucial in slowing down the progression of the disease and improving the quality of life for those affected.