Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What Are the Common Signs?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a problem in the brain
that makes it hard for a person to remember, learn and communicate. After a
while, this makes it hard for the person to take care of himself or
Dementia may also change a
person's mood and personality. At first, memory loss and trouble thinking
clearly may bother the person who has dementia. Later, disruptive behavior and
other problems may start. The person who has dementia may not be aware of these
What causes dementia?
Dementia is caused by the destruction
of brain cells. A head injury, a stroke, a brain tumor or a problem like
Alzheimer's disease can damage brain cells. Some people have a family history of
What are some common
signs of dementia?
- Dementia causes many problems for the person who
has it and for the person's family. Many of the problems are due to loss of
memory. Some common signs of dementia are listed below. Not everyone who has
dementia will have all of these signs.
- Recent memory loss. All of us forget
things for a while and then remember them later. People with dementia often
forget things, but they never remember them. They might ask you the same
question over and over, each time forgetting that you already answered that
question. They won't even remember that they already asked the question.
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
People who have dementia might cook a meal but forget to serve it. They might
even forget that they cooked it.
- Problems with language. People who have
dementia may forget simple words or use the wrong words. This makes it hard to
understand what they want.
- Time and place disorientation. People who
have dementia may get lost on their own street. They may forget how they got to
a certain place and how to get back home.
- Poor judgment. Even a person who doesn't
have dementia might get distracted and forget to watch a child closely for a
little while. People who have dementia, however, might forget all about the
child and just leave the house for the day.
- Problems with abstract thinking. Anybody
might have trouble balancing a checkbook, but people who have dementia may
forget what the numbers are and what has to be done with them.
- Misplacing things. People who have
dementia may put things in the wrong places. They might put an iron in the
freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl. Then they can't find these things
- Changes in mood. Everyone is moody at
times, but people with dementia may have fast mood swings, going from calm to
tears to anger in a few minutes.
- Personality changes. People who have
dementia may have drastic changes in personality. They might become irritable,
suspicious or fearful.
- Loss of initiative. People who have
dementia may become passive. They might not want to go places or see other
What if I have
any of these signs of dementia? Talk
with your doctor. Your doctor can do tests to find out if your signs are caused
by dementia. The sooner you know, the sooner you can talk to your doctor about
treatment options. What if a family
member has signs of dementia? If your
family member has some of the signs of dementia, try to get him or her to go see
a doctor. You may want to go along and talk with the doctor before your relative
sees him or her. Then you can tell the doctor about the way your relative is
acting without embarrassing your relative.
Institute on Aging: www.nih.gov/niaNational
Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.govAmerican
Psychiatric Association: www.psych.org