So you forgot where you parked your car for the second time this month. Or you found yourself flustered and confused when you couldn’t find an exit out of the shopping mall. But should you be worried about these symptoms? Or are these general signs of being distracted?
Losing your track of thoughts now and then shouldn’t be a concern. While it could also be a sign of aging, there are usually many other reasons you might be forgetting seemingly simple things. Stress, depression, anxiety, menopause, thyroid problems and multitasking are some of them.
It may be natural for you to panic when you forget things, especially if you have a family member who is already diagnosed with dementia. In case you’re worried about your brain health, we recommend that you go to your doctor and schedule a brain test. There are a lot of positive brain test reviews available online. Once you have the test results, you’ll be in peace.
On the other hand, it is necessary to be educated about dementia and its various types. Dementia is a chronic mental illness and includes symptoms like loss of cognition, forgetfulness and the inability to perform daily tasks.
One of the most common forms of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s usually face a host of symptoms that are all related to overall cognitive decline.
As Raj C. Shah, MD, Rush Memory Clinic at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago, says, “One symptom alone does not mean that a person has Alzheimer’s or dementia.” Hence, it is crucial to recognize the early signs of dementia so that a person can be diagnosed early on.
Impairment of language (aphasia) and dementia
According to Mesulam Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, dementia affects a person’s language skills. This condition is known as Primary Progressive Aphasia or PPA. People with PPA can find it challenging to use language correctly.
In many instances, a person experiencing PPA may notice that something is wrong with them. But the complaints are often attributed to stress or lack of attention. For a timely and accurate diagnosis, it is important to know the symptoms that people with PPA experience. Some of them are:
- Halting or very slowed speech
- Decreased variety of vocabulary
- Challenges with finding words
- Written sentences with unusual or downright abnormal word order
- Mixing words; like saying ’table’ instead of ’’
- Inability to remember names of places. For example, saying “We went to the place where you can get milk and eggs” instead of the “grocery ”
- Difficulty following conversations despite perfect hearing abilities
- Inability to remember the names of people, even though they recognize their faces
- Problems reading and writing
- New impairments in spelling
- Problems doing basic mathematical calculations
Unfortunately, PPA arises when the nerve cells in language-forming parts of the brain start to die. The two most common types of mental illnesses that can cause PPA are frontotemporal lobar degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.
Both of these illnesses can lead to multiple cognitive impairments, and a patient’s language is affected as a result. If dementia is particularly strong on the left side of the brain, then PPA starts showing stronger symptoms.
Spellings – a part of our semantic memory
According to research, dementia impacts a person’s semantic memory, a part of the brain that is responsible for recognizing spellings and meanings of words. For example, it is common for a dementia patient to forget what the word “orange” means. And when asked to bring an orange, the person may appear confused and agitated.
Another research was conducted on 3 groups; young adults, healthy older adults, and individuals with early-stage dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. They were given a common set of stimuli that included homophones (easier words with more predictable spellings) and inconsistent words (i.e., words with less predictable spellings).
The results indicated that younger adults were able to spell homophonic words (such as plane versus plain) easily because they used phonological information. On the other hand, healthy older adults and individuals with dementia used semantic information to come up with the spellings (i.e., they tried to spell the word based on its dominant usage).
The study concluded that because dementia affects semantic memory in older adults, they are more likely to come up with increased spelling errors.
Progression of dementia and forgetting basic spellings
Because dementia is a progressive disease, patients will usually continue to witness a decline in their language abilities. Additionally, it is frustrating to be unable to communicate. This irritation may give birth to a myriad of other symptoms such as changes in behavior, personality and attention span.
It is normal for a patient to feel disinhibited and display inappropriate behaviors. The rate of decline varies from patient to patient, and it may take years for the full range of behaviors to unfold.
Tips for communicating with a dementia patient:
It is natural to feel overwhelmed if you are taking care of a loved one or family member with dementia. Caring for them certainly poses many unforeseen challenges, but here are some tips to help you overcome even the toughest of challenges.
First of all, you will need to improve your communication skills when dealing with a person with dementia. Working on your communication skills will make it less stressful for both you and your loved one. Furthermore, it can enhance your ability to deal with the patient at times when you are facing difficult behavior.
For starters, consider these ground rules:
1- Don’t try to change the person
The person you are caring for has a cognitive illness. And this illness will shape their personality. Trying to control their behavior will often be met with resistance or leave you feeling distraught. Don’t go down that road.
Try to change things that you can control, such as the environment that may be causing a behavioral meltdown.
2- Consult with the doctor
If you are experiencing behavioral problems on a daily basis, then there might be an underlying medical condition that may be the cause. In some cases, medications can cause incontinence or hallucinations, or the patient may be going through chronic pain and be unable to communicate.
3- Every behavior has a reason
People with dementia often act like children. Since they do not have a lot of control over language, they fail to explain what they want or need. Try to understand the underlying cause of their behavior and when possible, accommodate their needs.
How do you deal with a dementia patient with language impairment? We would love to hear from you.