How to Distinguish Between Dementia and Old Age


dementiaWhen it first starts manifesting itself, it is really hard to separate dementia from simple aging. As they get older, people start making notes for themselves to compensate for some mental lapses, or they find excuses for having forgotten something. If your parent does not live with you at your home, you may not know anything is amiss for a while, because on the short visits he/she will be acting perfectly fine. Talking about old times, seeming to remember everybody's names and being fully aware of what is happening around them. Since deep down you never want to believe that your parent might be getting dementia, you will most likely dismiss a few mental slip-ups, some emotional outbursts or a slightly unkempt appearance, the first signs of early dementia.

However, as the time goes by, the problems might become harder and harder to dismiss. As dementia progresses, it starts to really have its negative effect on everyday life issues, like getting dressed and ready in the morning, driving a car, going shopping, taking care of bills.

If you think your parent is succumbing to dementia, try to analyze their behavior and compare it to what you think they acted like in the past. Make sure, that the problems you are seeing are indeed recent, and not something you were just not aware of in the past. We all misplace things. Some of us do it all the time. However, when it happens to an older person, we notice it right away, and a teenager doing something like this just gets a chuckle.

Keep in mind, that dementia affects areas of the brain responsible for intelligence, behavior, judgment, memory and language.

As a rule, a person suffering from dementia does not just forget something temporarily. The memory simply disappears. Your parent will not be struggling to remember a granddaughter's name. He/she will not even remember they ever had a granddaughter. Appointments are missed not because they are forgotten, but because there are no appointments.

Another telltale sign of dementia is when people become easily disoriented in seemingly familiar environments, like their home, or some other place visited often. They also start having difficulty finding the right word they want to use, sometimes use a wrong word, and even resort to gibberish.. Their mood and attitude may also change quite dramatically, turning a nice and easygoing person into an aggressive and critical tyrant. Some become quite suspicious and even paranoid of their surroundings.

If you suspect your parent is getting dementia, it is up to you to decide when and where to get them tested for it. Just remember, that even at this time it is considered to be an untreatable condition, there exist ways to slow down its course, and treat the symptoms, including agitation, anxiety and aggression.

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