Monday April 4, 2016
Over 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Dementia is the third leading cause of death in the United States and cannot presently be reversed or cured. However, research indicates that early detection may delay the progression. Usually separated into three different categories, mild, moderate and severe, the disease progression varies for each person. This article examines the mild or early dementia stage.
Symptoms and diagnosing early dementia
Symptoms of early dementia may include:
- Problems with directions.
- Difficulty with routine tasks.
- Changes in judgment and overall mood.
- Word finding problems.
- Memory deficits.
- Loss of enjoyment in social interactions.
There are various ways to diagnose dementia during the early stages. General practitioners are often the first point of contact for patients and caregivers. The role of the primary physician is often to rule out other illnesses. A patient may present with signs of dementia but symptoms may be caused by a vitamin deficiency, thyroid problem, depression or complications from anesthesia following surgery. If dementia is indeed suspected, a neuropsychologist and neurologist can assess specific deficits or determine dementia subtypes and perform more comprehensive tests. Imaging may also be used, including MRIs, CAT and PET scans.
How can you help a loved one with early dementia?
Being proactive in lifestyle and care decisions for your loved one is very important and will help reduce undue stress in the future. Planning may involve:
- Integrating a team of medical professionals.
- Making modifications in your loved one’s home.
- Implementing daily routine.
- Finding ways to support the main caregiver through respite care or in-home assistance.
It is important to note that your loved one may function independently for quite some time. They may be able to enjoy favored activities even though memory deficits may be observed.
Having a treatment plan with behavioral recommendations developed can be very helpful. A psychologist can help create an individualized plan for your loved one. The use of memory tools, including using an alarm to remember when medicine should be taken, creating a written to-do list and establishing a daily routine can help your loved one maintain some independence.
Advances in science, more targeted research, increased funding and the development of best practices will hopefully move society closer to improved treatments and an eventual cure.
For more information on finding assistance for a loved one with dementia, please call Abramson Care Advisors at 215-371-3400.