What is Dementia
Dementia is more than a biological condition or a set of symptoms, it is a human experience and it changes lives in many ways, some of these changes can be challenging, and some can lead to new experiences of life. To really understand dementia we need to consider both the physiological impacts and the experience of life with a diagnosis of dementia for both the person with the diagnosis and those close to them.
To do this we need to explore the medical, physical, emotional, social, environmental, psychological and spiritual aspects of the person. Both the biological aspects and the human experience. It is important that we consider and understand the contribution each aspect can have on the overall experience and wellbeing for people living with dementia and those close to them. When we truly understand dementia we understand that each of these aspects play important roles in the state of ‘being’ and quality of life the person might experience. This assists us to know and understand how to relate in a way that will enhance the life of the person with dementia.
It is common to experience some difficulties with memory at some point in life and there are many factors that could explain this. Many of them are manageable and do not necessarily mean dementia is the cause. Some contributing factors that might cause memory difficulties could be stress or a change in your emotional or physical health. In some cases, however, those changes can be a clue to early cognitive decline. Here is a list of some potential early signs of cognitive decline.
Early signs of dementia
Short term or recent memory loss
- Increased forgetfulness (losing where you parked your car, or forgetting the way home from someone’s house)
- Difficulty remembering things even after being reminded
- Forgetting words in a sentence more frequently
Difficulty performing known tasks
- A noticeable difference in your ability to perform a task that usually poses no issue
- Frequently making mistakes in the workplace that have never been a problem before
Disorientation to time and place
- Losing your way in a well-known area: for example forgetting the way home from work or when walking your dog
- Having trouble recalling what month, year or day of the week it is
Errors in judgement
- People close to you may be concerned about your spending
- Making rash decisions while driving or nearly causing accidents
Losing or misplacing objects
- Putting things down and forgetting where you left them more frequently than usual
- Forgetting you put things down at all in the first place
- Leaving items in irrational places, such as putting your reading glasses in the fridge or car keys under the sink
Changes in mood
- Experiencing significant changes in how you feel socially or emotionally
- Experiencing mood swings that are becoming more frequent
- Family members noticing you are more irritable, upset or emotional
- Changes in mood can also be an indication of depression. It is always worth a trip to your doctor to investigate.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that changes the way a person thinks and functions over time. It is characterised by problems in thinking, learning, memory and judgment (Kraus, 2017). The accumulation of amyloid plaques between neurons in the brain, as well as the forming of neurofibrillary tangles, are thought to play a significant role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reduce your Risk of Dementia
As we get older we can experience changes to our brain function, such as slower processing of information and increased forgetfulness, and this is considered to be normal. However, when we think of ‘increased forgetfulness’ we often associate the term with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Although some people experience forgetfulness as a symptom of dementia, dementia itself is not a normal part of ageing.