Dementia is a brain disease that usually strikes people after the age of 65. There are almost 50 million people around the world who suffer from this disease, and each day, that number increases. According to forecasts, by the year 2030, that number will reach 75 million, and 131.5 million in 2050. One of the reasons is that their relatives don’t consult a doctor in time. By the way, the first signs occur 5-10 years before the disease develops completely. If you notice them and send this person to a doctor, this could help to prolong their normal life.
Bright Side has studied some medical brochures for patients and articles, and now we’d like to share the most common, but obscure, dementia symptoms. There’s also a bonus at the end: Simple exercises that can identify whether you need to worry or not.
Suspiciousness occurs in different spheres of life. The most common case is when an elderly person thinks that someone wants to steal everything from them. As a rule, they blame their relatives or neighbors. Sometimes they even think that their relatives or neighbors are trying to poison them.
Some of them don’t trust civil servants like police officers or doctors and call them swindlers.
11. A lack of interest in everyday things
This applies to things a person used to pay attention to before, for example, someone’s granny used to wash the dishes thoroughly and make her bed in the morning. If she suddenly stops doing this, it’s a bad sign. This sign is often accompanied by an inability to deal with out-of-the-ordinary household issues. For example, if a pipe bursts, the granny won’t do anything on her own and will probably call her relatives. It’s a really important symptom that shouldn’t be ignored.
10. Asking the same questions
Anyone can be forgetful, so it’s important to pay attention to the frequency of these situations. If your granny asks you the same questions every day, it’s a good idea to send her to a doctor because this could mean that she’s in the final stages. In the beginning stages, the symptoms aren’t that obvious. They might repeat a question, but they’ll immediately realize that they’ve already asked this question.
9. Pointless walking around the house
Pointless walking could easily be missed: a person walking around the house and touching and rearranging items might make you think that they’re just busy doing something. Try asking them a question during this “walk” to see if they hear you or get confused.
Rearranging things is also a common behavior. For example, granny takes a pile of books from one room to another every day because she “likes that” or “the process calms her down.” In this case, it’s recommended to check whether these are the signs of early dementia or not.
8. Peculiar character traits get stronger
It’s important to not confuse this with a sign of aging, since it’s rather common. In people with dementia, certain character traits get really exaggerated. A greedy person starts collecting all their money, including cheap coins, and hiding it. But it happens slowly, so relatives usually think that their grandparents are just becoming more irritable.
7. Getting lost in time
It may sound scary, but more often than not, relatives don’t even notice this symptom. For an elderly person, it’s hard to remember the date, sometimes they find it difficult to tell time, they can hardly understand how much time has passed since a certain moment. They might set out for an hour walk, and come back home in 15 minutes, or 3 hours, and no matter how much time has passed, they think they’ve been gone for 60 minutes.
6. Collecting trash
There are different signs when it comes to this one: a greedy person might start collecting old things and refuse to throw them away. Others just collect useless items like cat or dog figurines, towels, and so on. One of the most telling symptoms is when a person doesn’t want to use these collected things and literally has no space to store them.
5. Inability to make realistic plans
A person dreams about impossible things. For example, they say they want to climb the Everest or buy an extremely expensive house by the sea (if they don’t have a lot of money).
4. Sudden weight loss or gain
Korean scientists think that weight changes are connected with dementia and these changes don’t have to be significant.
- In men who suddenly gain more than 10% of their weight, the risk of dementia increases by 25%.
- In women, considering the same conditions, the risk increases by 17%.
It’s one of the earliest symptoms, but it can also point at some other diseases like cancer or heart issues, so it’s recommended to visit a doctor anyway.
3. Getting upset about their inability to do something
This is more like a stage of realizing that something’s wrong. An elderly person might start to notice strange traits in their own character and get upset. When something breaks down, for example, they are unable to call the person who can fix it and don’t even know how other people deal with this problem. These instances are enough to make a person complain or even cry.
2. An urge to be alone
When an elderly person starts to notice changes in themselves, they might start avoiding other people unintentionally. It’s kind of like a psychological protection: they’re afraid of this world that has suddenly turned out to be completely unfamiliar. When a family gathers together, this person will always grumble and show that they’re dissatisfied. Of course, this is only referring to those people who used to be friendly and socially active.
1. Using filler words and interjections
This indicates that the active vocabulary of a person is narrowing. Again, this feature applies to people who used to read a lot and might have been teachers or scientists. As time passes, they stop using different terms, words that are hard to pronounce, and so on. To fill in the pauses, they start using filler words and interjections instead.
People might also lose their interest in reading books. The thing is, they find it difficult to read long and uncommon words. When they encounter them, they feel uneasy since they don’t understand what they mean. Because of this, they prefer peace of mind over an intellectual pastime.
Bonus: Home diagnostics
There are a lot of tests that can define dementia. The most famous are 6CIT, SAGE, and MMSE. Each test consists of a few questions and helps us find out if a person suffers from a cognitive or mental disorder.
Show an elderly person the test below and give them 15 minutes to complete it. If they can only manage to answer half of the questions, they might already have cognitive issues. In this case, it’s better to visit a doctor.
We hope you’ll never face this disease, but we still recommend paying attention to your elderly relatives’ behavior.
Do you know any other dementia symptoms?
Illustrated by Alice Perkmini for Bright Side