Forgetfulness is a normal part of aging? Wrong. Although our brains go through several changes as we age, forgetfulness is just not one of them.
Since old age is associated with forgetfulness, most people don’t notice when memory starts to deteriorate. It takes them longer to learn new things, remember information as well as they used to, or lose essential items like glasses and car keys frequently.
As a result, dementia remains undiagnosed until its usually very late.
In recent years, dementia has emerged as a major health concern among growing individuals. Currently, more than 47.5 million individuals worldwide have dementia while the numbers are growing rapidly every year, with the number expected to triple by 2050.
While dementia doesn’t discriminate and affects people from all areas of life, recent studies have shown that women are more likely than men to have dementia when they cross 60s.
In fact, women are more at risk of developing dementia than they are of developing breast cancer. While the chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer in women are 1 in 11, the risk of dementia in women above the age of 60 is 1 in 6.
Exactly why women are bearing the dementia burden is still a mystery but most research is pointing towards the fact that women tend to live longer than men. Dementia mostly affects older adults and the risk of dementia increases with age. Since an average woman has a longer life expectancy, she is more vulnerable to dementia and other cognitive impairments.
Regardless of the reason, the treatment of dementia depends upon its early diagnosis. As we all know, the condition is still incurable but there are several ways we can improve a patient’s quality of life with early diagnosis and intervention. Being diagnosed early can also help a patient get the right treatment, support and also assist her in making financial decisions in advance.
Early symptoms to watch out for:
The early signs of dementia in elderly women may be subtle and may not be immediately obvious. The symptoms are also dependent on the type of dementia and vary from one person to another.
Although, many of us might experience these symptoms at some point of our lives – their prominence on an elderly individual can be a sign of something serious. If you do notice any of the below mentioned symptoms on your loved ones, it is important that you get him or her evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
- Memory loss:
One of the most common sign of dementia is memory loss, especially recently learnt information. This also includes forgetting important dates and events, repeating the same information over and over, and relying on memory aids such as notes and electronic planners.
It is also common for an older adult to remember the events that took place years ago but forget what they had for breakfast the same day.
- Mood changes:
We all have mood swings from time to time, especially women. In fact, women are twice as likely to develop depression as men.
However, those with dementia can have rapid mood swings. Their mood can change from happy to sad in a second and that too without any apparent reason. They can also become rapidly confused, suspicious, withdrawn, and even anxious, especially when taken out of their comfort zone.
Shifts in personality are also common. For example, those who are usually shy may suddenly become outgoing or someone who is talkative may become discreet.
- Loss of interest:
Apathy is another common symptom of early dementia. A person with dementia can lose interest in the activities and hobbies they used to love. They may become withdrawn and stop going to work. Chances are they may also avoid social gatherings because of the changes they are experiencing.
- Problem with words:
You may have trouble finding the right words sometimes but those with dementia are often at a loss of words. Because of this, they may have trouble following a conversation or maybe stop in the middle of a sentence with no idea how to continue.
Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be difficult as they may struggle with vocabulary and are likely to call things by the wrong name. For example, calling a watch by the word ‘hand-clock’.
- Misplacing things:
We all misplace items once in a while but have you ever found your car keys in the refrigerator without an explanation? It is common to misplace items occasionally but those with dementia often put things in the most unusual places. And once they realize that the item is in the wrong place, they are unable to justify how it got there in the first place.
Sometimes, elderly persons with dementia may accuse others of stealing the items that they may have misplaced. The condition becomes frequent and severe over time.
- Difficulty with day to day tasks:
Someone in the early stage of dementia may have trouble completing day to day tasks. This usually starts with complex tasks such as balancing a checkbook or playing games with a lot of rules but ultimately leads to common activities such setting the microwave oven or recording a show.
They are also likely to have confusion about the day of the week and may forget where they are and why.
Diagnosis of dementia:
It should always be remembered that many of the symptoms mentioned above are common in various different conditions so one should not solely diagnose dementia on these bases.
If you have any concern about dementia, then the best person to discuss with is your doctor. Only a doctor can correctively diagnose dementia through various tests and assessments which will help you develop a treatment plan according to your needs.