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Normal aging process or early dementia?

Shaina Toomey, MSPT, Director of Rehabilitation Services, Fresh River Healthcare Center

(appeared in the Windsor Locks Journal, Windsor Journal and Bloomfield Messenger)

Forgetfulness and memory problems can be a normal process of aging but it can also be a sign of something else.  If you or a loved one notices subtle memory changes do not automatically assume it is “dementia” because it may be related to other factors. 

First, what is dementia? Dementia is not a specific disease but a general term for a decline in mental abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.  Dementia is a collection of symptoms associated with deficits in thinking, memory and communication. There are a number of possible causes of dementia but the leading cause is Alzheimer’s disease which accounts for a estimated 60-80% of cases according to the Alzheimer’s Association.  Additional causes may be:

There are some early signs and symptoms of dementia to be aware of such as: subtle changes in short term memory; difficulty finding the right words; sudden changes in mood with no apparent cause; loss of initiative or interest in once favorite tasks; difficulty in completing normal daily routines; decreased sense of direction or getting lost in familiar places and repetitive words or actions. If you find a loved one is demonstrating symptoms that are concerning, seek medical attention because getting a diagnosis is important. 

The goal of diagnosis is important to rule out other factors that could be playing a role such as an infection, fatigue, dehydration or possibly depression which can be mistaken for early signs of dementia.  Early treatments, adjustments to lifestyle and use of compensatory strategies can help decrease frustration for the individual.   Diagnosis and treatment is beneficial to be a multidisciplinary approach with possible team members such as the primary care MD, neurologist, and/or psychologist.  Yes, dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, but it can also affect younger people in the 30s, 40s and 50s.  If you are concerned with any of these areas or unsure reach out to your primary care physician.

See website http://www.alz.org/national/documents/checklist_10signs.pdf

iCare Management operates the Greater Hartford Memory Care Centers where our dementia care team guides and supports you and your family members as they transition to our centers. Upon admission to our program, residents’ specific needs and lifestyle patterns are identified and addressed through the assessment and individual care planning process. Our “Memory Care” Program includes services and caregiver training, an environment based on those recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association and Dementia Care Professionals of America.

Greater Hartford Memory Care Centers can be found at these iCare locations: Chelsea Place Care Center, Fresh River Healthcare, Silver Springs Care Center, Touchpoints at Farmington and Westside Care Center. Read the Greater Hartford Memory Care Centers brochure here…