Could it be Dementia or Alzheimer's?

If your loved one is having trouble remembering something, how do you know if it’s age or illness? How will you know if repeated forgetfulness, disorientation, or difficulty reading puts your loved one in danger?

The term dementia usually refers to an elderly person’s difficulties with memory. Dementia is caused by damage to the nerve cells of the brain. That damage limits or impairs your loved one’s ability to think.

People with dementia have trouble remembering even habitual things like locking doors and may demonstrate confusion when they can’t recall something they consider to be simple. They might panic when they feel confused. They may exhibit frustration or anger when they can’t recall something they think they should know.

Signs There Might be a Problem

It is estimated that 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of elderly-onset dementia. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that damages a person’s brain more and more for as long as the person is living. Alzheimer’s is ultimately fatal.

Some of these behaviors could indicate dementia which may be the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s:

  • Unexpected pauses interrupt your loved one’s speech.
  • It is hard for your loved one to understand spoken or written language.
  • It may be difficult for your loved one to recognize or identify objects.
  • Your loved one may struggle with activities such as teeth brushing or dressing.
  • Your loved one might be unwilling or unable to think abstractly, make sound judgments, and plan and carry out complex tasks.

These behaviors make daily tasks harder. When difficulties happen often, you and your loved one should seek the opinion of a physician.

There are other conditions that look like dementia. Depression and side effects from medicine can affect how your loved one behaves, too. Unlike Alzheimer’s, those conditions can be treated and even reversed.

The Cause

Some dementia is caused by brain injuries like blood vessel blockage or stroke. Though these instances are not the progressive and ultimately fatal dementia of Alzheimer’s disease, acute-injury dementia cannot be treated or reversed either.

A physician’s assessment is best to determine the cause of dementia symptoms. Physicians can also open discussion about caring for your loved one suffering from memory loss and help suggest the best options for memory care.

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