Dementia is an umbrella terms that covers a wide range of brain disorders, everything from Alzheimer’s Disease to the result of stroke. Diagnosing dementia is the task of physicians, usually neurologists.
The issue is confusing because as we age, our brains slow down and don’t function at the same level as in our middle-age years. So when is it a symptom of dementia and when is it simply a normal aging brain when we struggle to find the right word, our car keys, or our next door neighbor’s name?
Here are some ideas from the Alzheimer’s Association, hallmarks that should lead you to a doctor’s office for a thorough work-up of your loved one:
1. Memory loss that disrupts every day life;
2. Challenges in planning or problem-solving;
3. Difficulties in completing familiar tasks at home, at work, at leisure;
4. Confusion with time or place;
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships;
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing;
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps;
8. Decreased or poor judgment;
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities;
10. Changes in mood or personality.
Dr. David Reuben, chief of geriatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine, notes that “a person doesn’t have to have all of them.” He says that three or four should be enough of a warning sign to seek medical assessment.
For more information on the various symptoms of dementia, there are plenty of resources available on-line in addition to the Alzheimer’s Association (http://www.alz.org). Type “dementia” or “Alzheimer’s” into your favorite search engine, or visit nih.gov (the National Institutes of Health) or WebMD.com.
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