Memory loss that disrupts everyday life is not a part of the normal aging process and it may be a sign of dementia. Dementia is a term used to describe the loss of a person’s brain function affecting thinking, judgment, memory, language and behavior.
Not too long ago, people called dementia “senility” and thought it was a natural part of growing old. Now we know that dementia is not a normal part of aging; it is symptomatic of another condition or disease process in the body. There are more than 70 different conditions that can cause or mimic dementia symptoms including depression, thyroid disorders, infections, nutritional deficiencies and medication reactions.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia that is not yet curable. It is estimated that 60-70% of late life dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Because there are several diseases that can cause dementia, it is very important that anyone experiencing dementia symptoms get a thorough evaluation by a health care professional.
People with dementia often experience depression and anxiety and should be treated for those conditions as well. When an existing depression or anxiety is properly treated, people with dementia often demonstrate a higher level of functioning, improved mood and fewer behavioral problems.
Symptoms of dementia include:
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks: forgetting steps to everyday routines, i.e. how to use common items or how to participate in a favorite activity.
- Problems with communication: forgetting simple words, difficulty expressing self, difficulty understanding others, substituting unusual words.
- Disorientation: getting lost in familiar places, disorientation to general time of day.
- Changes in mood and behavior: more rapid and pronounced mood swings, agitation, impulsive behavior, social withdrawal, fearfulness, apathy.