Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning – thinking, remembering, reasoning and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. The changes in the person are small at the beginning but are so severe that they affect daily life. In India, more than 4 million people have some form of dementia. Worldwide, at least 44 million people are living with dementia, making the disease a global health crisis that must be addressed. Prevalence of dementia in India is reported to be 2.7%. As the age advances, prevalence of dementia increases
Short-term memory loss
Subtle changes in short-term memory occur. Problems like, forgetting where one put something or asking the same question over and over. The person is able to remember what happened years ago but has difficulty remembering the immediate present.
It can be noticed that a person with dementia has difficulty with language – forgets the right words to complete a conversation or uses the wrong ones. It might be difficult or take an extended period of time to conclude a conversation with the person. Like forgetting words they also tend to forget the meaning of words and hence others may find it difficult to follow the conversation.
The onset of dementia triggers personality changes – like depression, agitation, paranoia, and mood swings. Although the person with the condition may not recognise it, it is quite evident to an observer. A person with dementia is also susceptible to bouts of depression. These mood swings at times cause a shift in personality. The usual change that occurs is the transformation from reserved to outgoing.
One of the most telling signs of dementia is the person’s loss in interest in activities that usually interest them. They tend to neglect spending time doing their hobbies and regular activities. Even a conversation with a person with dementia would seem emotionless. They cease or have very limited interaction with family and friends. They lack initiative and do not attempt new tasks.
Difficulty with normal tasks
Someone with dementia may show subtle signs in their inability to complete certain tasks. Their abstract thinking ability diminishes. The tasks that have complex rules like balancing a checkbook or recreational – like playing chess are a few examples. They also find it challenging to do their normal tasks. Someone in the early stages of dementia tends to become confused as their memory, thinking,or judgement becomes hazy. They tend to misplace keys and also find it difficult to follow directions. While they struggle to complete normal tasks they also find it difficult to learn new tasks.
Sense of direction is compromised
Spatial awareness and sense of direction is affected by dementia. This disorientation poses a huge concern for the caretaker as a person with dementia has a high risk of losing his/her way. They fail to identify once-familiar landmarks and forget regularly used directions. It also becomes more difficult to follow a series of directions and step-by-step instructions.
Repetition is common in dementia because of memory loss and general behavioral changes. The person may repeat daily tasks, such as shaving, or they may collect items obsessively.
They also may repeat the same questions in a conversation after they’ve been answered.
Struggling to adapt to change
For someone in the early stages of dementia, the experience can cause fear. Suddenly, they can’t remember people they know or follow what others are saying. They can’t remember why they went to the store, and they get lost on the way back home.
Because of this, they might crave for routine and be afraid to try new experiences. Difficulty adapting to change is also a typical symptom of early dementia.
Many of our elderly are affected by Dementia. Early detection of dementia helps the elder and their caretaker manage the condition better. The symptoms listed above are easy to detect. This can aid timely medical intervention or support.