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Normal Behaviors


I stand in the middle of my home-office room and I look around. "Why did I come here?" I ask myself, not remembering my purpose.," Oh yes - stamps!" I answer myself within three seconds and immediately locate the drawer where I keep the stamps.

"Has anyone seen my car keys?" I yell frantically. I know that I only have five minutes to find them - otherwise I’ll be late for my appointment. Ten seconds later, I find my keys on the dining room table next to the pile of mail I brought in earlier.


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Years ago when I worked at the hospital, changes made by our management created a stressful work environment. My frustration built up, causing severe impatience - and eventually anger - with my family. I didn't realize how much my behavior had changed until my husband pointed out that I was becoming impossible to be around.  

When you witness such changes in a relative’s “memory” or behavior, there is no need to be alarmed. When we are distracted, tired, or stressed, these types of behavioral changes are all normal.

The Abnormal Behaviors

You see your mom standing in the middle of her bedroom, searching for something.  She’s talking to herself: "Where’s the blander? I need it to make the cake, and I swear I put it here somewhere."

You opens the refrigerator, and sees your mom’s car keys sitting in the vegetable's drawer.

During Thanksgiving dinner, your sister reaches over to take a second serving of turkey and mashed potatoes. Your father, who is known is a sweet and loving father, looks at her and says, "Really? Do you think you need those extra calories? Have you seen your ass recently? How much weight have you gained?”

These, on the other hand, are not normal behaviors. Looking for an item, finding one where it shouldn't be, and acting inappropriately in a social situation could be early signs of declined cognition.


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Ten Early Signs of Dementia


Dementia starts before you see the signs. The first people to notice these signs are, believe it or not, the people who experience them. Although they may not acknowledge these behaviors, they are already trying to figure out how to 'cover their traces.' 

They may brush off their mistakes (“whoops!”), justify it with humor (“oh, I’ve always been bad at math”), or argue with you (“that’s not what I said!”). But at some point, the changes in their actions will make you stop and think, "Hmm….something’s not quite right with dad." 


The 10 Most Common Early Signs:

1.    Memory loss:
•    Difficulty recalling recent events (but they easily remember something from a long time ago)
•    Repeating themselves, such as asking the same question over and over.
2.    Difficulty thinking things through:
•    Problems concentrating, following a series of steps, grasping new ideas, or solving problems
•    Struggling with familiar daily tasks: money management, driving, managing medications, etc.
3.    Communication Issues:
•    Difficulty finding the right word
•    Struggling to follow a conversation, misunderstanding, or misinterpreting things
4.    Getting confused about time or place:
•    Losing track of what time, date, or season it is
•    Getting lost while driving, even in familiar places
•    Missing appointments


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5.    Worsening judgment
•    Not thinking things through
•    Making irresponsible or inappropriate decisions, most common with money matters
6.    Poor reasoning and problem solving
•    Difficulty developing and following a plan
7.    Misplacing things
•    Putting things in odd places, like car keys in the refrigerator
8.    Mood changes:
•    Becoming unusually sad, frightened, angry, or easily upset
•    Losing interest in things and becoming withdrawn
•    Lowered self-confidence
9.    Change in personality
•    Becoming either more aggressive or friendlier.
10.    Loss of initiation
•    Withdrawal from normal activities and interests; hobbies, work projects, friends

What’s Next?

There is a vast amount of information you can tap into and use to educate yourself about dementia. This list of the ten most common early signs of dementia is a great place to start. If you recognize any of these behaviors in your loved one, the next step is to get a diagnosis.

There is nothing more frightening for anyone to hear than “you may have dementia.” Many people believe it’s akin to a death sentence. It’s no surprise that one of the most common questions I hear is, "I know my mom has memory loss, but she refuses to see her doctor. How can I get her diagnosed"? 


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If your mom refuses to see the doctor because she knows what he is going to say. She’d rather not have her frightening suspicions confirmed, let alone shared with the ones she loves.
But your mom is not the only one who may be horrified by her diagnosis of dementia. You may be too. 
This disease drastically changes everyone's lives. And you are right to be concerned. Yes, it is a progressive disease that gets worse with time. 
But although the most devastating scenarios may immediately run through your head,  
a diagnosis of dementia doesn't mean that life is over. A person with dementia can live a productive and meaningful life for many years after their initial diagnosis - but this does necessitate work on the part of the person and their family. This means that you need to prepare for the future by continuing to educate yourself about dementia.

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