Risks for cognitive issues increase as a person ages. It can be difficult for family members to spot signs of dementia in the early to mid stages of progression. You may notice the occasional memory lapse but attribute it to natural aging rather than a degenerative condition.
However, specific behaviors associated with dementia can help you spot early warning signs. Though dementia is incurable, early detection can help with planning and arranging services to maintain quality of life and get treatment as the disease progresses.
Here is a closer look at how to tell if someone has dementia.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is not a single disease. Rather, it refers to a group of medical conditions that cause changes to brain function and cognitive impairment. According to the CDC, Alzheimer’s accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases.
Vascular dementia, caused by poor blood flow to the brain, causes about 10% of cases. Rarer conditions, like Lewy body dementia or frontotemporal dementia, can also cause abnormal behaviors.
It is important to see a physician when you suspect a loved one has dementia symptoms. In addition to getting an early start on care coordination with a positive diagnosis, you can also check for other serious issues that may cause behaviors.
These health problems, such as thyroid problems, side effects of medication, vitamin deficiency, brain injury, or other illnesses, can cause memory or behavior issues. Once a physician addresses the underlying problems, the dementia-like symptoms should disappear.
Common Dementia Behaviors
The common behaviors of dementia often occur repeatedly. A single moment of forgetfulness or moodiness by itself is not necessarily a sign of dementia. However, if the behaviors are common or happen frequently, it is typically time to see a physician.
If you are aware of a dementia diagnosis, you can make a plan for how to deal with these behaviors of dementia so that you can better care for your loved one.
Here are six of the most common behaviors of dementia and how to handle them when they occur.
Confusion is one of the most common behaviors of dementia. This behavior of dementia manifests itself in a few different ways. You may notice a senior family member asking the same question repeatedly.
They may fail to recognize familiar people or become disoriented in familiar places. Also, the confusion could be worse at certain times of the day or during specific activities.
The best way to deal with confusion is to simplify communications. By asking simple questions with “yes” or “no” answers, you can elicit the necessary information from a dementia sufferer. You can also place reminders, such as labels on drawers or cabinets, to help with memory and orientation for basic daily tasks around the house.
Wandering is one of the more dangerous and common behaviors of dementia. Up to 60% of dementia patients will wander at least once during their illness. They may have a specific goal when leaving their location but could become lost or disoriented along their route.
Persistent wandering could mean it is time to seek a nursing home or assisted living facility with a memory care unit. However, you can also discourage the behavior by securing all the doors at night and using tech tools, such as GPS tracking on a cell phone, to help find a wanderer before they get too far away.
Many dementia patients have irregular sleep patterns. This behavior can include getting up and starting the day when it is still night or not wanting to sleep at bedtime.
You can encourage healthy sleep patterns by ensuring your loved one gets enough activity during the day and creating a schedule with consistent bedtimes. A physician may be able to suggest natural sleep aids, like a melatonin supplement, to ensure proper circadian rhythms.
Mood changes are another common cause of dementia. They can be alarming for caregivers because they can sometimes involve aggression or anger. However, it is possible to pay attention to these episodes and find triggers that cause them.
Mood swings often occur in specific situations or at certain times of the day. Over time, you may be able to avoid triggers or prepare for episodes. It is always best to avoid confrontation.
Later stages of dementia often include memory loss. People will not be able to recognize familiar faces or remember the names of loved ones they have known their entire lives. However, this can also be an early symptom that the person may recognize. They may realize they cannot remember things and become frustrated.
You can deal with memory loss by offering gentle reminders or correcting the person. Visual cues like photos and labels can also help.
People with dementia often have trouble concentrating. They may become restless and unable to finish a task. Behaviors can include pacing around the house or fidgeting with their hands constantly.
Respond to restlessness with activities such as walking or giving the person something to do with their hands if they fidget often.
If you notice behaviors of dementia in a loved one, you should see a physician. If they make a positive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, the next step is to begin coordinating the necessary care.
In Charlotte and the surrounding areas, Care Weavers offers compassionate and skilled care coordination for a patient with dementia. We can guide you with the next steps after a dementia diagnosis. Options include getting regular checkups with a primary care doctor and seeing a specialist at a memory disorder or neurology clinic.
In addition to coordinating clinic visits, Care Weavers can help you with care community selection. For example, your family member may eventually need full-time care at an assisted living center. If you can locate a facility with a memory care unit, they may be able to give your loved one more support and better quality of life if their disease progresses.
If you need support for a loved one suffering from any stage of dementia, contact us to learn about our care coordination services today.