You may be surprised to know that dementia is not a disease. In fact, there is not one test that can determine if someone actually has dementia. A doctor diagnoses dementia based on physical examination, lab tests, medical history, and learning about changes in behaviour and day to day functions.
We do know that dementia is damage to the brain cells. Just because a loved one has experienced some memory issues, does not mean they have developed dementia. A person needs to have at least two types of impairment in order to be considered to have dementia.
10 Signs of Dementia
1) Memory - We all have issue with remembering things from time to time. Memory issues in dementia tend to be short term memory challenges. For instance, why they went into a particular room, forgetting regularly where they left an item, or forgetting their very regular daily routine.
2) Mood - This is usually the first aspect of dementia that is noticeable to caregivers and loved ones. A very happy senior all of sudden becomes depressed. Judgement sometimes can be impaired.
3) Orientation - All of a sudden a loved one can lose their sense of direction in areas that were well known to them. For instance, they may get lost while going to the grocery store and may not even recognize the grocery store once they get there!
4) Communication - Not being able to explain their thoughts. Sometimes they can’t seem to find the right words to express what they are feeling.
5) Losing interest - Losing interest in activities, hobbies, and interests may be an early sign of dementia. They may no longer be interested in joining their walking group that used to be their favourite. or lose interest in watching their grandchildren's hockey game.
6) Repetitive - Doing activities again and again. Does your dad forget that he has already shaved today? They may also repeat the same discussion again after you have had a full conversation only an hour before. If an elderly family member is repeating daily tasks or conversations it may be due to memory loss because of dementia.
7) Confusion - Not remembering what someone looks like who is familiar to them, missing car keys that they just had minutes before, forgetting what city they live in, etc. Confusion may also arise when using appliances in the home.
8) Struggles with new things or change - You may find that your loved one completely refuses to do anything new. Learning something new can be extremely stressful to someone who has dementia.
9) Poor Judgement - Sadly this is often seen with an elder person’s finances. They may be talked into buying something they can’t afford or something that is completely out of character for them to buy.
10) Balance issues - Due to stress and memory issues arising as a result of dementia, an elderly person may lose their sense of balance, thus experiencing more falls.
It is important to remember that only a doctor can diagnose dementia. It is possible that a senior may improve, especially if the dementia is a result of a stroke or a head injury. Family members, rather than caregivers, are the most appropriate people to speak to their labout the fears involving dementia.