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What to look for?

Comprehension/ Understanding | Common Signs

  • Has difficulty understanding conversations (e.g. does not know what or who is being talked about)
  • Has difficulty understanding the storyline in a TV program, movie or book (e.g. could not explain the story to another)
  • Does not interpret the actions of others correctly (e.g. sees children playing, thinks they are fighting)
  • Frequently asks for or requires an explanation of what has been seen, heard or read
  • Frequently asks for information to be repeated
  • Rereads the same passage several times to understand what is written
  • Does not follow directions or instructions properly
  • Has difficulty telling the time (e.g. reading the watch or a clock)
  • Commonly appears confused or uncertain about what to do next
 
Comprehension/ Understanding | General Description

One of the most alarming symptoms for people with dementia is that they have trouble understanding what is going on. At first, it is easy to dismiss the problem, and many people do. In such cases, they might blame the newspaper fonts for being too small, or the television programs for being too complicated, or the lights for being too dim to read properly, or family members being too interruptive. Sometimes this is straightforward denial, and sometimes it is a sign of their dementia that they lack insight into what they can and cannot do. The opposite problem is seen too, but much less often - e.g., the person believes that they cannot of what they can do. This can be seen with depression (with or without dementia) and in frontotemporal dementia .

As it becomes clear that the problem is with them, people commonly seek treatment. They also adapt. Sometimes they are aware of this and sometimes not. Sometimes when they are not aware, a family member might notice that they have stopped doing more complex activities that required following a line of thought (such as reading or watching some plays and movies).
Another way that this becomes clear is when the person you care for frequently asks for an explanation of what has been seen, heard or read.

Disorders of comprehension and understanding often point to problems of language. They are seen with all the dementias, but especially Alzheimer's disease , some types of stroke and some types of frontotemporal dementia.


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See Also:
About Dementia > Alzheimer's Disease > Natural Progression and Staging
Symptom Library > Thinking & Judgment > Following Instructions
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Last updated April 9, 2014
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