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Early Signs of Dementia


Larry Carlson


health, fitness, and beauty

Larry Carlson, the President and CEO of United Methodist Communities, has over 40 years of diverse experience in multiple aspects of eldercare administration including CCRC, long term skilled nursing, post-acute rehabilitation, congregate housing, adult day health, and assisted living with particular expertise in operations, strategic planning, board development, new project design and development, and construction and start-up.

Dementia is an umbrella term for several different diseases.  You can have Alzheimer’s, Vascular dementia, or Lewy Body dementia (to name just a few).  Alzheimer’s is the most common.  With disease that result in dementia - they cause brain deterioration that is progressive and irreversible. Think about all that your brain controls.  It not only results in loss of memory, but also judgement, problem solving, and how we communicate. 


Sometimes the act of selecting out new clothing is overwhelming.  I might be depressed- or no longer see the need to bath and can not be bothered.  Sometimes I might have personal and privacy issues and I do not want help.   Because there are so many aspects of dementia that can impact why a person is skipping hygiene.  Selfcare is one of the most common symptoms.


Missing self-care practices like brushing my own teeth, not showering (or incomplete showers like not using shampoo or soap), and most commonly wearing soiled clothing repeatedly.  As we progress, we might begin to hide evidence of incontinence or accident in drawers, or between the mattresses.  Later stages we might even become physically resistant to care.   


There are many issues that look like dementia that are fixable.  Thyroid problems, Vitamin deficiency, infections, and more.  If you have one of these issues, addressing it sooner than later is best.  And if it is dementia, the current treatment and medications target the early stages. It is best to start these medication early as they are not effective in the later stages.     


Learning and memory, Language and communication problems, judgement and problems solving, attention span and easily distracted.  You do not need all of these to have dementia, but changes in these areas warrant seeing a doctor.  


The lancet identified 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia.  So those are beyond genetics and addressable.  Most effective is diet, exercise, and mental stimulation.   

a.      Early life:  Less education – higher and longer lasting education is proven in improve cognitive performance

b.      Mid-life:  Hearing loss, Hypertension, Obesity, Excessive alcohol intake, Head injury

c.       Later life (65+):  Smoking, Depression, Social isolation, Physical inactivity, Diabetes, Air pollution


Dementia is not a normal part of aging, so a specialist is required.  They will be able to rule out other possible causes, order the proper latest imaging, and know how to proceed with next steps.  Most neurologist these days also employ case workers to help support you and connect you with services if you do get diagnosed with dementia.  


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