Let’s talk about the 6 early warning signs of dementia.
Feeling tired, stressed, lethargic?
You would have all the symptoms of dementia, but do you really have dementia?
Tiredness and stress, may simply be due to late nights, low blood sugar, heavy work load, or any number of things. There are a number of signs that are not real dementia.
The worst thing you could do is give your spouse or partner the wrong diagnosis.
Another trap is the belief you have dementia, but not actually have it. You may have a well-meaning spouse who self-diagnoses you with dementia. He/she then gets into the habit of reminding you when you are forgetful and corrects you when you make a mistake. You then start to think and feel that you actually have early dementia.
It doesn’t mean you have dementia if these symptoms happen occasionally.
What is dementia?
A mental decline. When certain parts of your brain are shrinking, specifically a structure called the hippocampus.
6 Early Warning Signs of Dementia
People with early dementia may have problems with familiar everyday organization tasks. They may get confused with the order of things or with making plans.
2. Personality changes
Having unexpected mood swings where a person switches between emotions for no apparent reason may indicate an early sign of dementia. For no real reason, they may seem different from his/her usual self. They may become irritable, depressed, anxious, agitated, or apathetic.
Our gut is like a second brain. There is a connection between our gut and our brain. The microbiome (bacteria) in our gut makes neurotransmitters. They also make more serotonin than our brain makes serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood stabiliser that regulates wellbeing and happiness.
We have more nerve fibers in our digestive system than we do in our spinal column.
Many cognitive problems can stem from our gut. People who have Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease have much higher instance of constipation than someone who doesn’t have these diseases.
However, it is important to note that if you have constipation, it doesn’t mean you have dementia. It is just an early sign.
This could include issues with your smell, taste, hearing, eyesight and even your appetite. These could be early signs of cognitive decline. As sensory decline becomes more apparent, then the ability to focus, concentrate and overall memory is really what shows up to be a problem.
Struggling to find words for certain things, tending to repeat saying the same things over and over again, or mixing up words are all early indicators of dementia.
For example, a person may be able to talk and make sentences, but is incoherent. What they are saying does not make sense. Words come out randomly and all over the place. This can be extremely frustrating for the person trying to communicate. Language problems are a result of a shrinking hippocampus.
Problems navigating are apparent when you are trying to locate a place in a new area. You get confused and can’t work out where you are.
In our brain we have a GPS which allows us to locate where we are in space. When this area of the brain goes down, we lose this GPS. So, our internal map becomes non-functional, resulting in not being able to find out where you are.
Ultimately, the SEVERE MEMORY ISSUES that are associated with Korsakoff syndrome will result in dementia that is caused by alcoholism.
Check out some of the most common symptoms that people who have dementia caused by alcoholism showcase.
This is one of the most common symptoms of this kind of dementia. People with the illness appear not to be in a position to think clearly.
Many feel disoriented and have a tough time making decisions or focusing.
Confusion normally makes a person experience sudden emotional changes like being agitated out of the blues.
An individual may also have incoherent speech and lack awareness of time or location.
A high percentage of individuals who have this illness will find themselves telling the same story over and over again without even realizing it.
In line with this, some will also ask the same question repeatedly because THEY HAVE NO recollection of the queries that have just been asked or answered.
When having a conversation with such individuals, do not be shocked if they keep repeating the same information over ten times.
A person who has alcohol dementia may start to be reckless with their finances.
This is where an individual may get into a habit of making rash financial decisions purchasing items they do not need.
They may also become too generous with their money giving it out aimlessly.
Such people usually have a DIFFICULT time CONTROLLING EMOTIONS. One minute they may be the happiest beings on earth and the next they start crying.
Inability to perform motor tasks
You may notice that a person who has alcohol-related dementia has challenges performing both simple and complex motor tasks.
These can include walking, running, getting dressed, or getting up and down a flight of stairs.
Heavy alcohol abusers also experience damage to nerves in their legs and arms.
These people normally have issues with sensation, and they might also demonstrate unsteadiness on their feet.
An array of psychiatric problems
Dementia that relates to alcohol is also known to produce various psychiatric issues. These can include disconnect from reality (psychosis), anxiety, depression, and changes in personality.
Some may also develop apathy which can be MISTAKEN for depression.
Impaired ability to learn new things
It can become very difficult for a person who has this type of dementia to start learning new things. This is because damage to the brain affects its comprehending and processing ability.
Other symptoms may include but are not limited to frequent headaches, anger episodes, slurred speech, mood swings, decreased spontaneity and initiative, and memory gaps.
Oddly, persons who have alcohol-related dementia may seem to be in total control of their faculties drawing correct deductions, playing games that require mental skills like cards or chess, and making witty remarks, etc.
Before concluding that a person has alcohol-related dementia, you must seek the services of a professional or doctor.
Because of the symptoms that the illness has, it becomes difficult to tell right away that dementia has been caused by alcohol abuse.
Doctors, however, can conduct several proper tests to come up with the right diagnosis.
The professionals will also be in a position to advise on how to combat the illness in the right way, depending on the individual.
Treatment for Alcohol Dementia
It is advisable to start treating alcohol-related dementia as fast as possible.
If we detect this dementia early enough, it means that the damage to the nerves and brain will not be excessive.
While the treatment process can be quite stressful for candidates with alcohol-induced dementia, it is necessary, if a person wants to PREVENT further health problems or death.
Studies show that women have more success reversing the effects of alcohol-related dementia than men.
Both genders, nonetheless, require support from their friends and family while undergoing treatment.
There are several treatment options that a person who has this dementia type can explore such as:
To cure this type of dementia, a person simply needs to quit drinking alcohol. When a person stops taking alcohol, it prevents further damage to nerves and brain function.
Quitting consumption of alcohol may not be the easiest thing to do. Doctors may put the person with dementia on alcoholism treatment when the situation is dire.
This typically consists of multiple IV infusions and therapies that attempt to replenish the vital nutrients the body has lost.
Most people will have to stay in a clinic or hospital for a certain period so that they can be monitored closely during the treatment.
Some who have the willing power may, however, go through alcoholism treatment successfully at home.
Others may even need a rehabilitation center to stay “clean.” This is because, during the treatment, a person MUST NOT touch even a single drop of alcohol.
It is usually a difficult moment because an alcoholic at this point has been used to the toxic substance to an extent that their bodies crave it and most feel like they cannot survive without a drink.
In such cases, alcoholism support groups can be helpful.
Thiamine therapy also helps with the treatment of dementia from the abuse of alcohol. This provides the body with the much-needed B1 or thiamine vitamin.
This vitamin is crucial in the body because it helps the brain cells convert sugar into energy.
When there is thiamine deficiency, it means that the brain cells will not have enough energy to function well.
The treatment comes highly recommended because it enhances the neurological functioning of people with alcohol-related dementia.
Additionally, it can also PREVENT this type of dementia FROM PROGRESSING to more dangerous stages.
It is important to incorporate counseling as part of treating dementia caused by alcoholism. This is where the affected person gets a chance to talk to professional therapists.
It can help identify the root cause of the problem to eliminate it. After dealing with what causes a person to OVERINDULGE in alcohol, the chances of relapsing become slimmer.
Persons who have alcohol dementia may also benefit from services that memory clinics offer.
It is, therefore, wise to seek referrals from your doctor to point you in the direction of a good clinic.
You can also consider addiction programs that have been successful in helping people abstain from alcohol for the rest of their lives.
If the person who has dementia is living in a retirement community, remember to communicate this to the caregivers early enough. This is because not all communities may be aware of the health condition.
Some may not even have the proper resources to extend beneficial care.
If you find yourself in such a situation, continue searching until you can identify the community that will be the right fit.
Alcohol Dementia Final Remarks
To clarify things, alcohol dementia mostly affects people who drink EXCESSIVELY.
It is very rare for a person who gets tipsy once a week by having a few wine or beer glasses to develop the illness.
Individuals who are at risk are the ones who frequently intoxicate themselves with alcohol and suffer from hangover symptoms almost every day.
These are the people who are always feeling dizzy and vomit all the time.
Not treating the disease early enough can make it an incurable health condition.
Nonetheless, administering proper treatment on time gives alcoholics a chance to lead a happy, alcohol-free life.
Moreover, predominantly, more men than women are affected by LBD in their sixties and above. Also, if a family member has Lewy body dementia or Parkinson’s disease, relatives are at higher risk.
Common Lewy Body Dementia Symptoms
1. Changes In Reasoning
Lewy body dementia (LBD) or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) presents itself as progressive dementia that affects thinking, independent function, and reasoning.
Abnormal protein deposits that accumulate in certain areas of the brain over time damage its cells over resulting in the condition.
Depending on different circumstances, everyone affected by the condition will display differing symptoms from the onset. A few people experience changes in reasoning seeing them struggle to process information and plan.
Their flow of ideas may become unclear, disorganizer or seem illogical. Changes in behavior are also common when someone with the condition rationalizes things differently.
The person may gravitate towards risky behavior that is out of the norm because of their impaired judgment.
2. Visual Hallucinations
Hallucinations are amongst the most commonly experienced Lewy body dementia symptoms. In fact, about 80% of people with LBD experience hallucinations marked by seeing things that in real sense aren’t present.
In the beginning, someone with the condition will often see animals or children who aren’t present.
Rarely, a few people may also experience nonvisual hallucinations meaning that they respond to smells or hear things that don’t exist.
Often, if the hallucinations aren’t disruptive in nature then there isn’t a cause for concern or treatment isn’t required.
However, if the person begins to respond in harmful or dangerous ways concerning their hallucinations, it’s crucial to seek prescribed medication.
3. Movement Difficulties (Parkinsonism)
Some people suffering from DLB might never experience movement problems or it could take several years for them to start having this challenge.
It projects itself initially as things like handwriting changes in mild forms that it may easily be overlooked.
Often referred to as Parkinsonism, it describes the set of symptoms experienced during the offset of Parkinson’s disease dementia.
Some people with LBD will start suffering from restless leg syndrome which is a condition that compels them to move their legs while resting.
It may even happen while sleeping and the only way to stop the unpleasant sensation is by moving to relieve the discomfort.
5. Problems With Cognition
A person with LBD will often stare into space for prolonged periods of time and they also usually appear drowsy and lethargic. Problems with cognition is some of the common Lewy body dementia symptoms a majority of people experience.
It’s also identifiable from unpredictable changes in concentration, wakefulness, attention, and alertness throughout the day as well as from day to day.
The person will seem better one day only for them to re-occur the next day or worsen as the days progress. Typically, cognitive fluctuations are some of the symptoms that help physicians distinguish the condition from Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Sleep Problems
Sleep disorders can arise as one of the Lewy body dementia symptoms, but they often go undiagnosed. Visiting a sleep specialist can help with treating sleep problems as well as possibly diagnose the root cause.
Most people with DLB experience insomnia which is attributed to difficulties falling or staying asleep. People with LBD also experience excessive sleeping during the day where the person sleeps for two or more hours.
A few people also exhibit REM disorder which is a condition where someone seems to act out their dreams. In the case of REM, the person might talk while sleeping, display violent movements, and may even fall out of bed.
7. Memory Loss & Dementia
Degenerative thinking abilities or severe memory loss marked eventually set in and affect a person’s ability to perform their normal daily activities.
Memory loss is a primary Lewy body dementia symptom and it’s marked by forgetfulness, misidentifying objects, challenges multitasking, reasoning and problem-solving.
Confusion is yet another symptom that accompanies dementia and the person may suddenly have difficulties making sense of time and place.
However, unlike with Alzheimer’s dementia, the memory problems do not manifest at first but they start becoming apparent as LBD progresses.
Dementia can also alter mood and behavior leading the person to start displaying loss of initiative or poor judgment.
It’s best described as spacing out where someone in a situation that requires their undivided attention wanders off in their thoughts.
Several other symptoms collectively contribute to inattentiveness including difficulties with sleep. Once again it is something that will affect someone’s ability to perform daily tasks and it’s more pronounced for people who are employed.
They often find it difficult to get work done and grasp new information which leads to frustration for the individual and those around them.
As the condition progresses, it also affects both written and spoken speech.
9. Trouble Interpreting Visual Information
People with LBD have difficulties processing visual information with regard to object size, perceiving objects as overlapping, and they also display difficulties with counting tasks.
For instance, they may have problems drawing common objects like a clock and the symptom is worse in people who also experience visual hallucinations.
They also have trouble perceiving spatial information leading them to misjudge the distance between objects.
Often, a few of these visual issues can be handled either by prescribing antipsychotic medications or with the help of an eye-care practitioner.
Oftentimes, the diagnosis of visual problems can help in making the correlation to DLB as opposed to other neurodegenerative conditions.
People with LBD have a sense of understanding about the changes that they are experiencing. Before they receive a diagnosis, it can be frustrating trying to understand the root cause of the problems they are experiencing.
Often, they cannot control most of the symptoms on their own and they may feel like a burden to family or friends trying to help them through the challenging time.
It leads them to develop a feeling of sadness and they also start feeling worthless because of their inability to get tasks started or complete them.
Problems with sleep as well as eating only aggravates the situation, and soon people with LBD go into depression.
Along with depression comes the disinterest in enjoying fun activities or even normal tasks. Apathy as one of the Lewy body dementia symptoms leads someone to withdraw from social interactions. Someone with LBD becomes upset easily, and they often resort to pacing around or wringing their hands because of their inability to feel settled.
They also repeat words or phrases severally which impedes their ability to hold a decent conversation. They can recognize their shortcomings in social settings which makes them rationalize that withdrawing from such situations is the solution.
It becomes more pronounced when the person becomes bedridden perhaps owing to the progression of one of the other symptoms.
12. Unpredictability Of Symptoms
One of the striking signs of DLB is the fact that the severity of symptoms changes from time to time. The shifts are often dramatic and someone can never tell when they are going to strike and in what form.
Often, it can give a false sense of hope that someone with the condition is cured only for the symptoms to come back in more severe forms. The shifts in “good days and bad days” makes it somehow easy to recognize that there is an existing health problem.
Subsequently, early diagnosis can come about from catching on to these unusual changes at the very start.
13. The One-Year Rule
Doctors typically use the one-year rule to make a diagnosis distinction between Lewy bodies dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
The rule of thumb is that cognitive difficulties precede movement issues by more than a year when someone has Parkinson’s diseaseis suffering from Parkinson’s disease dementia.
However, in the case of LBD, the cognitive problems may start concurrently with movement problems or within a year of developing issues with cognition.
The symptoms of Lewy bodies dementia are treatable on their own and complete recovery is based on their severity. However, much like all other forms of dementia, there is still no cure for this type of dementia.
14. Staring Into Space/Zoning Out
If a person is staring into space, it does not necessarily mean he or she has Lewy body dementia. However, once they keep doing it over and over again, over a longer period of time, you need to start taking things into consideration.
Indeed, staring into space or zoning out is one of Lewy body dementia symptoms, you should be aware of. For your information, they can stare into objects far away or items nearby.
One of the reasons they might begin to stare or completely lose track of what is happening around them is due to hallucinations. We already mentioned the latter above, so please re-read it if necessary.
15. Imperfect Digestive Process
Since Lewy body dementia affects all sorts of different parts of the body, one of the symptoms is an imperfect digestive process. A patient can experience all kinds of inconveniences, like dizziness, constipation and bowel issues.
If the body does not get enough nutrients through quality food, an array of other conditions can occur that can worsen dementia. Not just that, but rapidly speed up the progress.
As a caregiver, it is crucial to understand the ill person’s eating habits even from before the symptoms and the possibility of dementia become a thing.
You should act immediately and take the person to the doctor as soon as possible.