Dementia Signs & Symptoms

Dementia can be hard to spot. Learn about the warning signs & symptoms to watch for.

Understanding Dementia

Learn about dementia

Dementia is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms that are the result of disturbances in a person’s cognitive functioning abilities. More specifically, these symptoms include an overall decline in memory, problems thinking, and difficulties communicating. Additionally, those with dementia tend to find it more difficult to control their emotions or use good judgment. Over time, the symptoms associated with dementia will become so prominent that it will impact a person’s ability to function properly on a daily basis.

Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning that the symptoms will gradually get worse over time, and most forms of dementia do not have a cure. However, there are treatment options available to help manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of this disease. This is why it is so important to seek treatment as soon as possible if you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from dementia.

Statistics

Dementia statistics

It is estimated that dementia affects 24 million people throughout the world, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. In the United States alone, recent census estimates that 4.7 million people aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for dementia

While all forms of dementia are caused by the death of brain cells, there are a number of factors that can lead to the damage of these cells. Listed below are some of the most common causes and risk factors for the development of dementia:

Genetic: Researchers have identified genetic mutations that they believe place an individual at a higher risk for the development of dementia. Since these genetic mutations can be inherited, it can be concluded that there is a genetic component to the development of this disease.

Environmental: In addition to genetic factors, there are a number of environmental factors that can play a significant role in the onset of dementia. For example, it is believed by many researchers that exposure to certain chemicals, such as aluminum and lead or particulate air pollution, can contribute to the development of dementia.

Risk Factors:

  • Older age
  • Family history of dementia
  • Exposure to certain types of toxic chemicals
  • Suffering from infections that affect the brain, such as syphilis or HIV/AIDS
  • Having Down syndrome
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of dementia

The signs and symptoms experienced by someone who is suffering from dementia are ultimately going to depend upon the type of dementia that individual has. The following are a list of possible symptoms that may be present when someone has dementia:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Less interest in doing things once enjoyed
  • Problems completing familiar tasks
  • Experiencing difficulty with planning and organizing
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Language difficulties
  • Requiring assistance in order to perform complex tasks
  • Onset of inappropriate, unexplainable behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Poor balance
  • Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Impaired motor functioning
  • Inability to maintain proper hygiene

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Loss of object recognition
  • Loss of facial recognition
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Poor judgment
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Disturbed reasoning skills
  • Lacking abstract thinking capabilities
  • Impaired perception
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Changes in personality
  • Mood swings
  • Increased agitation
  • Increased irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation

Effects

Effects of dementia

The long-term effects of dementia will come to impact all areas of a person’s life as the symptoms continuously worsen. Potential effects that can occur due to the presence of dementia may include, but are not limited to:

  • Increased levels of aggression
  • Getting lost in places that were once familiar to an individual
  • Irreversible memory loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Inability to perform certain daily tasks without assistance
  • Becoming paranoid and unwarrantedly suspicious of other people

Co-Occurring Disorders

Dementia and co-occurring disorders

It is not uncommon for individuals who are suffering from dementia to also experience another mental health condition. Examples of various disorders that are known to co-occur alongside dementia include:

  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Substance use disorders

The staff treatment and medication that I got from Harbor Oaks helped my dementia a lot. I am so grateful to have gone there and would recommend anyone who is dealing with dementia.

– Former Patient