Understanding the Signs of Dementia

Hands holding

Here at Fieldstone, we often receive questions from residents, potential residents, and families regarding the difference between normal memory loss due to aging and the signs of dementia. While some memory loss is common among older adults, the Centers for Disease Control define dementia as memory or cognitive impairment that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily activities. Dementia is more common than you may think.

A 2019 study by the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that approximately 4 million Americans age 65 and older are living with some form of dementia. All too often, we assume that experiencing memory problems as we age is normal and nothing to worry about. However, if you have concerns or notice any of the following symptoms, it may be time to contact your doctor. From providing a diagnosis to sharing resources, your doctor can play a key role in managing symptoms of dementia.

Common signs of dementia fall into mental, emotional, and social categories.

Mental Symptoms of Dementia

The main symptoms of dementia fall within mental and memory problems.

  • Severe memory problems: Forgetting information recently learned or being unable to recall important facts, such as children’s names, could be caused by dementia. Repeatedly asking the same questions or becoming overly dependent on memory aids, like sticky notes, can also be indicators. When memory loss disrupts everyday life and the ability to take care of oneself, it’s more than just forgetfulness or normal aging.
  • Difficulty with problem-solving or following plans: Being able to create and follow plans are crucial skills that older adults should be able to complete. Activities like paying bills, making a familiar recipe, or finding the way home after visiting a familiar place should not cause challenges for healthy seniors. However, for people with dementia, tasks like these can take much longer than necessary due to an inability to focus on one thing.
  • Everyday tasks become more challenging: It’s normal for older adults to need help with new technology (i.e., smart TVs or computers), but an inability to perform familiar tasks could point to dementia. People with dementia might have trouble creating a grocery list, driving to a familiar location, or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
  • Vision problems and difficulty processing visual information: Normal aging can lead to decreased eyesight, but Alzheimer’s and other dementias often lead to struggles related to the mental aspect of vision. People with dementia can have difficulty determining color or contrast and judging distance. This makes driving a dangerous task.
  • Uncertainty around place and time: Having trouble comprehending anything happening outside the person’s immediate environment and present moment is a significant sign of dementia.
  • Difficulties with speaking or writing: We all have trouble finding the right word sometimes. Beyond that, it’s common for dementia patients to experience issues like forgetting the name of familiar objects or calling things by made-up names. This can make holding a conversation difficult as individuals with dementia may get confused or lost while speaking, leaving them unable to finish their thoughts.
  • Misplacing items and being unable to find them: Someone with dementia may hide objects in strange locations and not remember where they put them. They might accuse others of stealing when they can’t find such items.

Social Symptoms of Dementia

  • Decreased decision-making skills: Having dementia can lead someone to make poor decisions or use bad judgment. Warning signs include unusual thoughtless decisions about money and neglecting to groom oneself.
  • Withdrawing from social activities: A person living with dementia may have trouble concentrating and holding a conversation. Because of this, they may avoid social situations or past hobbies, leaving them unable to stay involved with activities they previously enjoyed.

Emotional Symptoms of Dementia

  • Personality or mood shifts: People with dementia can experience severe mood changes, becoming anxious, depressed, fearful, suspicious, or confused. They may also become upset easily, whether at home alone or in a new situation.

How do we at Fieldstone Communities address and manage the symptoms of dementia?

We focus on six areas of wellness for those with dementia: physical, emotional, intellectual, environmental, social, and spiritual. Our memory care buildings are uniquely designed for our residents with:

  • wide hallways to reduce disorientation, anxiety, and claustrophobia
  • large windows to provide sunlight and outdoor views to encourage feelings of positivity
  • color-coded designs in different areas that allow residents to associate colors with locations, making navigation easier
  • adjustable lights for residents with sundowners or other light sensitivity issues
  • life enrichment and safety technology help provide an engaging environment and freedom of movement in a secure environment
  • a secure, outdoor courtyard that invites residents to connect with nature, reduce stress, and calm the mind

Each resident at Fieldstone’s memory care communities is given an individualized activity plan and personalized care plan tailored to their needs, interests, and experiences. These plans keep them physically and mentally engaged, helping to manage symptoms of dementia.

Our staff is trained in listening with empathy and validating the concerns of residents–this has been shown to comfort and reassure people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Medication assistance, assistance with bathing, housekeeping, and chef-cooked meals help residents with dementia thrive.

Contact a Fieldstone memory care location to learn more, and schedule a tour to see how Fieldstone can make a difference in your and your loved one’s lives.

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