With so much misinformation surrounding the conditions of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, it can be difficult to sort fact from fiction. If your loved one is getting more and more forgetful, is it just a normal part of aging or is it a sign of Alzheimer’s? If your loved one is becoming increasingly withdrawn socially, is this an indication of dementia, or could it be something else?
Some behaviors that may point to early warning signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be hard to detect at first. There are no obvious outward physical marks, but small behavioral changes can provide clues that something might be going awry. These changes might include increasing memory loss, misplacing things or confusion about times or places. Sometimes the person suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s is not even aware any changes are occurring. It is often loved ones who recognize the problems first. So it is important to speak with a doctor if you have concerns about a loved one.
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be properly diagnosed with a complete medical evaluation. An assessment to determine if someone has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may include a complete medical history review, physical and neurological examinations, cognitive testing, and possibly blood tests or even brain imaging scans.
With a thorough examination, other possible contributors to symptoms such as memory loss can be ruled out. Some possible causes of cognitive impairment that can be reversed include nutritional or vitamin deficiencies, thyroid issues, depression, alcohol abuse or a reaction to certain medications. Doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating dementia and Alzheimer’s patients can conduct a full evaluation and assessment, provide an accurate diagnosis, and recommend possible treatment and care options.
Alzheimer’s disease and some other forms of dementia are progressive, which means these conditions cannot be cured or reversed. Because of this, an early diagnosis can make a significant difference in the quality of life for both the patient and their loved ones. With early diagnosis, there is greater opportunity to benefit from medications which can ease some symptoms, meaningfully connect with support groups and caregivers, participate in decision making about legal and financial matters, implement lifestyle changes that can improve overall health, and focus on deepening important relationships with friends and family.
If you have concerns that a loved one may be exhibiting early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease but are unsure where to begin, talk to your doctor for guidance. The Alzheimer’s Association website has a helpful checklist of warning signs you can use to review with the doctor. Some of these warning signs include:
- Memory loss and forgetfulness
- Confusion about times and places
- Difficulty with words and speaking
- Withdrawing from work or social activities
- Increased confusion, depression or anxiety
Getting a proper diagnosis and understanding what treatment and care options are available can help take the mystery and fear out of dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Then, with the proper care and support in place, you can focus on enjoying more quality time together with your loved one.