When your loved ones enter their senior years, dealing with conditions like dementia can initially feel daunting. But with the right information and support, you can help your loved ones continue to experience a fulfilling and vibrant life.
Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in cognitive abilities. While dementia is often associated with aging, not everyone who grows old develops the condition. Early-onset dementia affects people younger than age 65 and is less common. Late-onset dementia starts after the age of 65.
Dementia can present with memory loss, mood swings, and confusion, among other symptoms that can make it challenging for family members to navigate. Many senior living communities have memory care lifestyle options to provide personalized support for loved ones with dementia.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term encompassing a group of symptoms affecting memory, cognitive function, and daily activities. It’s not a specific disease but a collective term for a range of conditions characterized by a decline in mental abilities that impairs daily living.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is not a normal part of aging but mainly affects older adults. Dementia is a progressive disease presenting with cognitive decline, such as memory, thinking, and emotions, which is why early detection is essential for treating and managing the disease.
Along with age, risk factors for dementia include:
- Family history
- Poor heart health
- Traumatic brain injury
Signs of Dementia
Dementia signs can vary from person to person. Symptoms may be mistaken for age-related decline, depression, or anxiety, which can delay diagnosis and treatment.
Signs of dementia can include issues with:
- Reasoning, judgment, and problem solving
- Visual perception
Dementia & Age
It’s important to note that there is no single age at which dementia can set in. While it is true that most people who develop the condition are over 65 years old, some people can start showing symptoms as early as their 40s or 50s.
Early-onset dementia, though less common, affects people younger than 65 years old. The signs may be subtle at first, misdiagnosed, or inaccurately attributed to stress. People with early-onset dementia may have varying symptoms as it affects individuals differently. Symptoms may also change during different stages of dementia.
Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of late-onset dementia, with the development of symptoms in individuals who are 65 years of age or older.
The exact cause of late-onset dementia is often challenging to pinpoint, and it’s likely a combination of age-related changes to the brain, genetics, environmental, lifestyle, and health factors. Symptoms of late-onset dementia start mild and progressively worsen, ranging from mild during the early stage to moderate or severe in the later stages.
Early symptoms can include:
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment
- Changes in mood or personality
- Difficulty paying bills or handling money
- Repeating questions
- Wandering or getting lost
- Misplacing or losing things
- Increased anxiety or aggression
Moderate symptoms can include:
- Short attention span
- Increased confusion and memory loss
- Inability to learn new things
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Difficulty with language
- Hallucinations, paranoia, or delusions
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Trouble carrying out familiar tasks
- Impulsive behavior
- Restlessness, agitation, anxiety
Severe or late-stage symptoms can include:
- Weight loss
- Inability to communicate
- An increased amount of sleeping
- General physical decline
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Trouble swallowing
If you suspect a loved one is showing signs of dementia, speak to them about the changes you observe and how seeing a healthcare professional for an assessment can help. In older adults with dementia, early detection and treatment can mean slowing the progression of symptoms and maintaining their independence for longer.
Reducing the Risk of Late-Onset Dementia
Due to the many risk factors influencing the development of dementia, it isn’t a preventable disease. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk, such as:
- Managing high blood pressure
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Managing blood sugar levels
- Quitting smoking
- Staying physically active
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Getting enough sleep
Memory Care for Loved Ones with Dementia
Dementia is a complex condition affecting people of all ages, although it’s more common in older adults. Coping with late-onset dementia can be challenging for loved ones and their families. It often requires support, understanding, and adjustments to daily life to accommodate the changes in cognitive function.
Being aware of the risk factors and symptoms of dementia can help you take the necessary steps to protect your brain and reduce your risk of developing the condition. While there is no cure for dementia, early diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.If your loved one is experiencing symptoms of dementia, know that there are support services available. Contact The Legacy at Town Square to learn about our memory care lifestyle, or schedule a tour to see how our services and amenities can benefit a loved one with dementia.