can’t believe you forgot my birthday. You’ve been acting weird lately. Maybe I don’t matter anymore.” Bella screamed as she strode out of the room. Her mom Bethel sat there looking morose and wondering what’s been up with her memory in recent times. She seemed too forgetful these days. This past week alone, forgot the new neighbor’s name thrice, she missed her way home and forgot the toiletries aisle at the grocery store she frequents.
Watching your aged parents or elderly loved ones grow from the vibrancy you once knew to a new level of frailty requires patience and getting used to. While a few of us are hurt by their outbursts or forgetfulness, we can help by equipping ourselves with knowledge. Rather than weary them or sulk uncontrollably, take time out to research the root cause and find ways to support them instead.
While there are several brain cell damage conditions that could cause loss of memory, dementia is a popular culprit. So, we’ll be taking a closer look at it.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a generalized term used to refer to the loss of memory, language, and/or difficulty in thinking, as well as some changes in brain cell activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, with about 80% of cases in its belt. Once the brain condition starts to disrupt daily routine and relationships with others, it’s time to see a doctor.
Causes of dementia
Dementia occurs due to brain cell damage. When the aspect of the brain in charge of memory and communication is damaged, it results in an inability of the individual to communicate feelings or think properly. Although the type of dementia determines the exact part of the brain affected, for the most part, dementia cannot be cured, only managed. However, there are a few situations where the condition can be treated. This conclusion generally depends on varying factors and might not be effective at all times.
The situations include but are not limited to;
• Vitamin B12 deficiency
• Sleep deprivation
• Depression / Pseudodementia
• Brain tumor
• Side effects from certain medications
• Alcohol abuse
Because dementia is more of a symptom than an illness, diagnosis is based on the cause. While the signs are easy to determine, the exact type of dementia is harder to diagnose, as symptoms are similar.
Here are the stages of dementia
• No physical signs: At this stage, there are no symptoms, but tests may state otherwise.
• Questionable signs: You may notice a slight change in behavior, but your mom still seems independent and can handle her own.
• Mild signs: At this point, you might start to worry that she is more forgetful of recent events.
• Average signs: Your dad keeps forgetting the day of the week or the house address of his new home. At this stage, the condition affects his daily activities, and help is encouraged.
• Severe signs: This stage is severe and the forgetfulness has become full-blown. Feeding and using the loo becomes a difficulty that requires assistance. It’s very clear because Mom forgets who you are sometimes.
• Very severe signs: At this phase, the patient cannot speak and lacks mobility.
Other signs of dementia
While the symptoms vary per cause of dementia, these are common signs related to the condition.
#1. Poor judgment
When decision-making becomes a chore that disrupts your usual lifestyle, it’s time to get checked. If your mom who has been good with money starts to make poor money decisions, or your TDH father begins to ignore personal grooming, these may be early signs of dementia. Imagine mom randomly asking you what the spoons in the kitchen are for (and yes, she isn’t kidding).
#2. Social withdrawal and lack of empathy
As humans, this occurs every now and then, but living with dementia and/or other brain diseases might pose difficulty in holding up a conversation. This could lead to a loss of interest in hobbies, social gatherings, and/or work. Also, spontaneous reactions that include insults, outbursts, and violent actions could be major signs of brain damage.
#3. Words begin to fail them
One of the common signs of dementia is struggling with words. Nancy used to be an eloquent lawyer, but as she aged, her daughter noticed she (Nancy) started having trouble identifying familiar objects and may stop a conversation halfway, with no clue on how to finish.
#4. Visual impairments and confusion
Donald was rushed to the hospital after a minor car accident. He said he noticed his inability to determine distance and even color these days. He also stated he thought the ice cream truck looked farther than it was, hence the need to accelerate rather than hit the brakes. For some living with Alzheimer’s disease, vision issues and confusion occur. This is the third time you will receive a call about your uncle going missing in a familiar neighborhood, and of course, it’s starting to bother you.
Mom isn’t tripping for no reason. If you notice she’s been losing balance and falling often, in addition to the other signs like confusion and mood changes, it’s time for a check-up. Frequent falling could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
The following are some factors that are likely to trigger dementia in individuals:
• Age: The risks of suffering dementia increase with age advancement.
• Genetics: There are genes that increase the risk of dementia. If you have a family member who suffered Alzheimer’s disease, be deliberate about your health. Go for check-ups often because early detection is key.
• Alcohol abuse: Scientific research has proven that individuals with high alcohol intake stand the risk of dementia.
• High cholesterol: A high level of “bad fat” in the system can spike vascular dementia.
While not all types of dementia can be prevented, a healthy lifestyle choice is a preventive measure.
• Quit smoking and drink responsibly
• Eating healthy foods
• Exercise regularly
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Constantly stimulate your mind with puzzles, books, and learning new things.
• Maintain a healthy social life. Be part of a community.
While some signs of dementia can be managed for the patient to resume their daily activities, the cure hasn’t been established. Check with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment options.
Featured image: Danie Franco | Unsplash
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