Ben had always been able to read his dad pretty well but lately he was having a hard time discerning what was going through his mind. Much of the time his father appeared to be managing his life with no particular problems but sometimes he was distant and forgetful leaving Ben to wonder what was going on. The only time his father would seem to get excited was when they were talking about past experiences and he would even get animated telling a familiar story he recollected but anytime he was asked a question about something of current interest he would seem to draw a blank. This was confirmed the day Ben took him to a sports cards shop and his dad showed a great amount of appreciation for some old football cards that were on display there. Not only could he remember the star players making great passes and scoring touchdowns but he could also recall where he was and what he was doing the year these events happened. This was in sharp contrast to his ability to participate in the conversation Ben tried to have with him about the big championship game they had both watched together the weekend before.
Ben rightly concluded that his father was developing early signs of dementia and he found in talking with his personal physician that he had missed the early warning signs until now. The earlier this process of deterioration is discovered the better it can be managed but it is certainly not a disease that can be cured. The diagnosis of dementia can only be made by a doctor after screening tests are given usually consisting of an MRI, blood tests and a memory test where the patient is asked a series of questions including one where he is given three words to remember and then asked in several minutes what they were. Many times people with dementia cannot remember a single word in just a few minutes. The most common early warning signs of dementia are:
1. An inability to find the right word in conversations, resulting in halted speech and incomplete thoughts is something we all deal with from time to time. In people with early and moderate dementia, this becomes a normal form of conservation with them making it hard to communicate well and carry on a mutually satisfying communication. This can be very frustrating to the person with the disease and the person who is trying to interpret what this person is trying to say.
2. A growing difficulty on the part of the person to understand numbers and financial concepts. This may first manifest itself by a person having extreme difficulty balancing his or her checkbook.
3. A tendency to get confused or lost in familiar places is also a key indicator of dementia. This problem unfortunately, is dangerous not only to the person with the dementia but also to others on the road if the person is still driving. It is sometimes helpful to enlist the aid of the doctor to advise his patient that it would be the best for all involved if he voluntarily decided not to drive anymore.
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