How to Recognize Signs of Senile Dementia

Is it dementia or could it be something else?

The earliest signs of senile dementia are often overlooked or explained away as being normal behaviors associated with growing old. The truth, however, is that the healthy brain can continue to regenerate itself and create new neural pathways until an elderly person is well into his seventies. The onset of disease, chemical changes, or complications due to stroke are often the precursors that can lead to senile dementia. Knowing how to recognize a cluster of symptoms that may suggest the onset of dementia, is essential to both diagnosis and treatment.


Step 1

Understand the Definition of Senile Dementia

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the distinction between «dementia» and «Alzheimer‘s Disease.» Dementia is simply a word that is used to give a name to a set of symptoms that describe the behavior associated with this condition. Senile dementia is restricted to symptoms of dementia that are found in the elderly. Alzheimer‘s Disease is a diagnosis that causes senile dementia. Dementia can also be caused by a number of medical conditions including stroke, hardening of the arteries, Parkinson’s, head injury, and complications arising from the use of certain medications.

Step 2

Examine the Family History

Lapses in memory and infrequent episodes of confusion are often dismissed as normal signs of aging. But when a significant number of symptoms occur with frequency or the symptoms that are present worsen, dementia is always a concern. Making the leap from seeing these symptoms and attaching possibility of dementia as a significance can be difficult to do. The first, yet most significant step, can often be examining family history.

Certain forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s Disease, stroke, and Parkinson’s Disease are frequently seen in the family history of an individual who is exhibiting similar symptoms. If a parent or sibling has been diagnosed with a form of dementia that may be hereditary, any suspect symptoms should be taken seriously and a complete medical assessment should be done.

Step 3

Rule out Depression

The elderly population is at greater risk of depression than any other age group. Seniors who are suffering from depression do not always manifest the classic symptoms associated with this mental illness. Lapses in memory and confusion can easily be mistaken for early signs of dementia. The anxiety and fear that often accompany depression can look like early changes in mood and personality. Seniors who begin to display these symptoms should be screened for possible depression before moving on to consider the possibility of dementia.

Step 4

Know the Progressive Signs of Senile Dementia

Senile dementia often progresses slowly. Although early symptoms can be difficult to spot they may include the following:

1. Increase in anxiety
2. Decrease in energy
3. Social withdrawal
4. Brief lapses in memory
5. Slight, recurring confusion
6. Changes in balance and hand-and-eye coordination

As dementia increases, the symptoms become easier to distinguish and may look like these:

1. Instances of forgetting how to do normal daily activities
2. Mood swings often characterized by increased anxiety and/or agitation
3. Changes in sleep patterns sometimes accompanied by episodes of disorientation and wandering
4. Increased confusion and memory loss
5. An uneven and halting gait

It is latter stages, dementia is characterized by:

1. Extreme personality changes that can shift abruptly
2. Loss of bodily functions, including bladder and bowel
3. Inability to walk, feed, or bathe self
4. Inability to recognize family members
5. Loss of the ability to communicate beyond stereotypical phrases that lack meaning
6. Visual and/or auditory hallucinations
7. More frequent illnesses related to dehydration and/or poor nutrition

Step 5

Be Proactive about Getting a Diagnosis

It can be difficult for loved ones to recognize the initial signs of senile dementia. Momentary lapses in memory and increased anxiety are often associated with the normal aging process. Depression sometimes mimics the early symptoms that are characteristic of dementia. Recognizing dementia is further complicated by the various disease processes that are often associated with its symptoms. Even when behavior becomes more extreme, no family member likes to face the reality that a loved one may be slipping away due to personality changes and cognitive decline.

If you or your family member is showing signs that might be associated with a form of dementia, early assessment is essential. By recognizing these signs, you may be able to pursue treatment strategies that can sometimes slow down the progression of this condition. Although there is presently no cure for dementia, managing its symptoms with the help of a geriatric specialist could mean having more precious time with the ones you love.

Things Needed
• A proper understanding of the term «dementia»
• A family history
• A medical examination to R/O depression
• A diagnosis

Tips & Warnings
• Be careful not to dismiss early warning signs as a part of the aging process
• Be sure to rule out potential depression before seriously considering dementia
• Don’t make the mistake of believing that all forms of dementia are the same.


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