Dementia Causes, Symptoms, & Signs to Watch for in Your Loved One

Watching a loved one suffer from dementia can be difficult and heartbreaking. Understanding the dementia causes and symptoms as well as possible treatments can help you and your loved one cope with the diagnosis.

Additionally, being prepared for the stages, knowing what to expect, and understanding when you may need memory care, like the kind of memory care offered at Cape Albeon, can help bring a sense of peace to both you and your loved one.

Table of Contents

What Is Dementia?

The Mayo Clinic defines dementia as a term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life.

Although several diseases can cause dementia, it is not a specific disease itself.

Symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Difficulty with complex tasks, problem-solving, and coordination/navigation
  • Personality changes
  • Mood disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.)
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

What Is the Main Cause of Dementia?

Dementia is caused by damage or loss of nerve cells and their connections to the brain. This damage can happen in different parts of the brain, affecting people differently and causing different symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of progressive dementia in older adults, but there are lots of other causes of dementia as well.

Some diseases and conditions, such as a reaction to medication or vitamin deficiency, can look like dementia but may improve with treatment.

What Causes Early Onset Dementia?

Early-onset dementia can be caused by a variety of things, such as genetics, brain injury, heavy drinking, stroke, or even depression.

Risk factors include age and family history. However, there are risk factors that can be changed as well, including decreasing your alcohol intake, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.

What Are the Types of Dementia?

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Dementia covers a wide range of diseases and conditions, both progressive and reversible. The 5 most common types are:

  1. Alzheimer’s disease – is the most common dementia diagnosis among older adults.
  2. Frontotemporal dementia – is a rare form that tends to occur in people younger than 60.
  3. Lewy body dementia –  abnormal deposits of protein cause this.
  4. Vascular dementia – is caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain.
  5. Mixed dementia – a combination of 2 or more types of dementia.

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What Are the 4 Early Signs of Dementia?

Experts think that people begin to develop dementia up to 10 years before any symptoms, which can be a scary thought. Watching for warning signs both in yourself and your loved ones can help with early detection and diagnosis. The four early signs of dementia are:

1. Short-term memory loss

Not remembering recent events or conversations, or remembering details from that conversations incorrectly.

2. Getting lost

Losing their way while driving somewhere familiar or taking a walk in the neighborhood.

3. Social withdrawal

Apathetic feelings can lead to losing interest in hobbies or social activities. This symptom can mimic signs of depression so to distinguish the two, watch for other warning signs of dementia as well.

4. Lack of planning

Not being able to keep track of paying bills or plan for things in the future.

Other signs and symptoms include difficulty communicating, repeating questions, and losing balance. Severe dementia symptoms can include hallucinations, paranoia, inappropriate behavior, and anxiety.

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What Are the 7 Stages of Dementia?

It is important to consider a person’s current abilities and to monitor for changes over time that could signal dementia. Dementia.org breaks down the 7 stages of dementia and what to expect from each. Stages 1-3 are commonly known as the pre-dementia stages.

Stage 1 -No cognitive decline

This is the normal functioning stage.

Stage 2 – Age-associated memory impairment

Occasional lapses of memory such as forgetting where you put something or the name of someone familiar to you.

Stage 3 – Mild cognitive impairment

Clear signs begin such as getting lost easily, forgetting an acquaintance’s names, or having difficulty concentrating.

This stage is when it is encouraged to have a clinical interview to gain a proper diagnosis.

Stage 4 – Mild dementia

The individual may start to withdraw socially and show changes in personality and mood. Additional symptoms include decreased knowledge of current events, difficulty remembering their own personal history, disorientation, and difficulty recognizing faces and people.

Denial of symptoms at this stage is a common defense mechanism.

Stage 5 – Moderate dementia

May need to start receiving daily assistance. The main symptom is forgetting major details such as a close family member’s name or their own home address.

Although patients may become disoriented, at this stage they do not need help with basic functions such as using the bathroom or eating.

Stage 6 – Moderately severe dementia

At this stage, the patient begins to forget the names of their children, spouse, or primary caregivers. They are generally unaware of their surroundings, can have skewed memories, and will need full-time care.

Caregivers and loved ones should watch for delusional behavior, obsessive symptoms, and loss of willpower as these can be dangerous for the patient.

Stage 7 – Severe Dementia

At this point, a loss of motor skills and progressive speech loss will take place. Your loved one will need help walking, eating, dressing, and using the bathroom.

These stages can be scary, but by identifying the earliest stages as they occur, you can seek medical treatment quickly which can, in turn, delay the onset of later stages.

How Can You Help Prevent Dementia?

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Although reversal of progressive dementia is unlikely, studies suggest there are ways to slow the progression.

Keeping your mind active by reading and solving puzzles, staying physically and socially active, getting enough sleep, increasing vitamin intake, and quitting smoking are all things that may slow the progression.

Additionally, seeking treatment for reversible dementia-like conditions can help get rid of the symptoms. Reversible conditions include infections, immune disorders, metabolic problems, side effects of medications, and brain tumors.

If you or a loved one seems to be showing signs of dementia, it is always best to consult with your health care professional as soon as possible. The sooner you can get a diagnosis, the sooner you can start treatment.

Is There Treatment For Dementia?

Although progressive dementia cannot be cured, there are many different types of treatment to manage dementia symptoms, through not only medication but other ways as well.

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors – alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia by slowing the breakdown of the enzyme that plays a role in learning and cognitive skill.
  • Glutamate inhibitors – prevent harmful overproduction of glutamate, which can lead to increased cell damage.
  • Mood & behavioral medications – such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood-stabilizing medications can help alleviate some of the symptoms dementia causes and greatly increase well-being and quality of life.
  • Therapy – seeking professional counseling and a strong support system can calm anxiety and improve the patient’s overall well-being.
  • Security in home life – having a home that is safe and welcoming can bring necessary peace not only to the person suffering from dementia but to their loved one as well.

When Should I Seek Memory Care Help For My Loved One?

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Deciding on memory care is tough but also an important step for your loved one.

Knowing they are safe and well cared for is not only best for their well-being but also for your own peace of mind.

When you start seeing consistent changes in behavior, confusion, and disorientation that put their safety at risk, or a decline in their overall physical health, it may be time to seek out memory care.

Your professional health care provider may suggest when it is time as well.

If you are in St Louis, Valley Park area, Cape Albeon memory care may be right for you. We have over 20 years of experience and offer an all-inclusive Memory Care Household. We encourage family involvement and ensure each of our residents receives an individualized care plan.

Helping your loved one maintain dignity and independence is our top priority.

Schedule a tour and come see everything the community at Cape Albeon has to offer.

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