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Early Warning SIgns of Dementia

It’s often difficult to know whether you or a loved one has dementia, especially in the early stages.  Many people become concerned when they experience memory lapses, even though a certain amount of these is to be expected as we get older.  We may joke about having a “senior moment,” or about developing Alzheimer’s disease, but sometimes these jokes can mask a real concern.  And, often it is hard to identify whether a person may or may not actually have one of the diseases which produces dementia symptoms and, if so, which one of these diseases is present.  Here is a list of early predictors of dementia that I found while surfing around the web.

1.  Frequent falling.  We all trip and stumble from time to time.  But recent research suggests that frequent falling, especially if a person has not been prone to such things, may be an indicator of early Alzheimer’s disease.

2.  Missing sarcasm.  Another recent study showed that people with frontotemporal dementia or Alzheimer’s disease experienced difficulty understanding, or identifying, sarcasm or figurative language.  They also had trouble determining whether someone was telling the truth.

3.  A disregard for the law.  Some people with early-onset dementia will show a disregard for social standards.  This may include shoplifting, making sexually inappropriate remarks, and so on.  Such things will be usually seen as contrary to their typical behavior.

4.  Staring.  Some individuals in the early stages of dementia will lose the ability to track moving objects with their eyes.  They may show a behavior called “reduced gaze,” which can appear as if they’re staring off into space.  In addition, when they try to read they will often skip lines.

5.  Eating objects.  It can be very surprising when you’re having a nice dinner with someone in a restaurant, and they begin to eat the flowers on the table.  Some persons with dementia exhibit a form of agnosia, where they quite literally do not recognize objects or know what to do with them.

6.  Losing knowledge.  Everyone occasionally experiences what I like to call “tip of the tongue syndrome,” where they momentarily have trouble recalling the names of objects.  But, in dementia this will go one step further.  The person may not only forget what an object is called, but be unable to state what it is used for.  Perhaps strangely, he will often appear quite capable in other areas of his life.

7.  Losing empathy.  A person in the early stages of dementia may appear unconcerned about the emotional states of those around them.  He may show little to no awareness of having offended someone by what he has said, even if he may previously have taken great care to avoid doing such a thing.  People with dementia often lose the ability to read social cues, such as facial expressions that can indicate negative reactions to what has been said.

8.  Ignoring embarrassment.  Similar to #7, persons with dementia may lose the ability to recognize when another person has become embarrassed by something they have said or done.

9.  Compulsive, ritualistic behaviors.  We all have our little idiosyncracies, or ways of doing things that are unique to ourselves.  But persons with dementia will develop mannerisms that may seem strange or inappropriate, like hoarding food or buying pencils every time they go to the store.

10.  Money troubles.  Many individuals who are in the early stages of dementia will suddenly have difficulty balancing a checkbook or making change, even if they previously were very astute at financial matters.  They may begin to make unwise purchases, such as things they see in an infomercial or a television shopping channel.

11.  Difficulty speaking.  A person may experience trouble expressing himself, and may stumble in his speech or sound as if he is stuttering.  This may happen in spite of the person being able to take care of himself just fine in other areas.

(This list was inspired by one found here.)

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