Many people associate dementia or Alzheimer’s disease with memory loss. While it’s true that memory loss is a significant component of these conditions, they can involve other symptoms as well. Experiencing memory loss does not always mean you have dementia, and vice versa; having dementia does not mean you will only experience memory loss.
Dementia is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms. Beyond those that impact memory, they also affect thinking, reasoning, and socializing skills. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the signs of dementia beyond memory loss, so when a family member starts exhibiting them, they may be unsure of what it means and how to move forward.
Brickmont Assisted Living offers memory and dementia care in the Atlanta area, including Woodstock, Johns Creek, Acworth, and beyond. We’re sharing some of the common signs and symptoms of dementia beyond memory loss and how you can manage them.
Aside from memory loss, many people with dementia can experience personality changes, as well. They may experience sudden anger, extreme sadness, or energetic enthusiasm, all within a matter of minutes. These changes and mood swings can come on rapidly and with no apparent reason. They can also often be completely out of character for the person, which can be especially worrisome and distressing for their family.
In addition to major mood swings, other personality changes brought on by dementia can include:
- Lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Apathy or indifference
- Lack of judgment, impulsiveness, or social inappropriateness
- Paranoia or delusional thinking
- Social withdrawal
How to Manage Behavior Changes
Seeing your loved one act in a way that is inappropriate or out of character can be uncomfortable and frightening. It’s important to remind yourself, though, that your family member is still the same person they’ve always been, and their behavior is a result of degeneration in the brain. While this can be challenging to come to terms with, it can help you and your family handle their erratic or uncomfortable behavior.
For many people in the early stages of dementia, depression is very common. According to Johns Hopkins expert Andrea Nelson, R.N., about 40-50% of those living with dementia also experience depression. The high instances of this could be related to changes in the brain, as well as the struggle of coping with the diagnosis.
Depression and dementia can also be related to personality changes, contributing to individuals feeling hopeless, disinterested, or irritable.
How to Manage Depression
If you’re a family caregiver and notice that your loved one with dementia is showcasing signs of depression, it’s essential to speak with their healthcare provider. While depression in those with dementia is known not to be as severe as those without dementia, treating it can still significantly improve the quality of life. Their doctor can develop a care plan that could include a combination of medication, counseling, and effective activities.
Another common sign of dementia beyond memory loss is problems with sleeping. Due to changes in the brain, individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia may experience shifts in their sleep-wake cycle. As a result, they may have difficulty falling asleep at night, or they may nap too much during the day. Some experts even suggest that individuals with late-stage Alzheimer’s spend up to 40 percent of their time awake in bed at night and a significant part of their daytime sleeping.
How to Manage Sleep Changes
Even though difficulty sleeping is a common issue in those with dementia, it is one of the easiest problems to manage. Here are some tips on how to support a good night’s sleep in your family member or loved one:
- Establish a Daily Routine: Try to have set times each day for waking up, eating, resting, and sleeping.
- Encourage Physical Activity: Enough activity during the day can make it easier to sleep at night.
- Avoid Stimulants: A cup of coffee in the morning is okay, but try to avoid stimulants like coffee or soda in the afternoon as it can disrupt sleep.
- Set a Peaceful Routine in the Evening. Creating a calming routine in the evenings can set a positive mood when getting ready for bed. For example, turning on some calming music, dimming the lights, or reading.
Instead of memory loss, another sign of dementia is having trouble communicating. In the early stages, individuals may have difficulty retrieving the right words, asking the same questions, or frequently losing their train of thought. As the disease progresses, they may have even more difficulty finding the right word or even forming a coherent thought.
How to Manage Communication Issues
Trying to communicate with a family member who has communication challenges can be frustrating, and it can be easy to lose your patience. However, it’s essential to remain calm and patient to understand what they need and how they are feeling. Always be kind, gentle, and give eye contact or a reassuring touch.
Dementia is one of the most challenging and complex diseases to understand. It can be challenging to determine if a family member is experiencing dementia or just another sign of aging.
It’s important to realize that memory loss is not always a definite indicator of dementia, but other signs could be. For this reason, it’s important to observe your family member and watch as their abilities and symptoms change or evolve. If these symptoms start to impact their daily life, it could be time to speak to their healthcare provider.
Brickmont Assisted Living offers memory and dementia care in Woodstock, Johns Creek, and Acworth. We serve individuals and families going through the dementia journey and offer support, answers, and care. For more information on dementia care at Brickmont, visit our website.