Dementia – What Is It? Can You Stop It?

Dementia is a group of symptoms. These symptoms affect memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. A diagnosis of dementia is not based on memory loss alone. Other issues with awareness, judgment, language or difficulty doing routine activities in the home or community appear with dementia.

Many of us experience normal forgetfulness as we age. Don’t worry. Walking into a room and forgetting why or forgetting where you put your keys isn’t cause for alarm. It’s OK if you can’t remember names as well as you did 5 – 10 years ago.

When Should I Take Note of Changes?

If you have concerns for yourself or someone you love, you should take note of these 10 early symptoms from the Alzheimer’s Association.

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
  • Confusion with time or place.
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  • Decreased or poor judgment.
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  • Changes in mood and personality.

What If I Have Concerns?

Usually a first step to diagnosis is a conversation with your primary care provider. Although this is a difficult thing to do, it’s the best way to benefit from the available treatments and therapies. Being open about problems allows you to explore and begin effective coping strategies. Treatments may provide some relief of symptoms.

Everyone’s goal is to maintain independence as long as possible. The right care and support services can help you and your loved one live well longer.

Your primary care provider will evaluate your overall health and identify if any reversible conditions are responsible for the recent difficulties that are being observed. You and your loved one may be referred to a specialist such as a:

  • Neurologist – specializes in diseases of the brain and nervous system.
  • Psychiatrist – specializes in disorders that affect mood or the way the mind works.
  • Psychologist – has special training in testing memory and other mental functions.
  • Geriatrician – specializes in the care of older adults and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Rehab therapist (speech, occupational and physical therapists) – specializes in identifying strategies to help with issues in communication, memory and successful continuation of functional activities such as driving.

How Can I Strengthen My Brain?

  • Be curious – look things up
  • Try a new hobby
  • Read a book that is out of your comfort range
  • Play memory games (high tech or low tech)
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise go for a walk
  • Think positive
  • Eat healthy
  • Visit new places
  • Take a class

As people age, behavioral health problems beyond dementia can develop. If you have any questions or concerns, see your primary care provider. Having the right information and guidance can help you and the people you care about live well.

Meet the Author

Laurie Misslich OTR,CLT,C/NDT is the Outpatient Supervisor for the Neuro Rehab Program at Aurora West Allis Medical Center in West Allis, Wisconsin.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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