Common Dementia Symptoms
Common symptoms found in all dementia types
Dementia symptoms vary, depending on the type of disease causing it, and the location and number of damaged brain cells. Regardless, all dementias, whether primary (i.e., Alzheimer's disease) or secondary (i.e., due to head injury), share common key clinical characteristics. Medical experts divide these universal dementia symptoms into two categories: cognitive/ intellectual impairment and psychiatric.
All dementia symptoms usually come on gradually. They begin mildly and progress over time. Cognitive or intellectual impairments common in all dementia types are amnesia (memory loss), aphasia (inability to communicate effectively), and apraxia (inability to complete pre-programmed motor tasks or to perform activities of daily living).
Short term memory loss is the earliest and most noticeable symptom in dementia. A person with early dementia will get lost in a familiar place or ask the same question over and over again. Memory loss by itself does not mean that a person has dementia. Doctors will diagnose dementia only if two or more brain functions, such as memory, language skills, or perception is significantly impaired without a loss of consciousness.
With aphasia, a person with dementia will forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making speech or writing hard to understand. Another universal cognitive/ intellectual impairment found in all dementia types is apraxia. Simply put, the individual loses the ability to perform activities of daily living such as brushing his/her teeth, dressing oneself, and performing job-related skills.
Psychiatric symptoms in dementia commonly found in all dementia types include personality changes, depression, and hallucinations/ delusions. In the early stages, personality changes that tend to emerge are increased irritability, agitation, anxiety, and isolation. A person may experience mood swings for no apparent reason or a person may become extremely apathetic and withdraw from the outside world. Symptoms of depression can appear at any stage of dementia. Studies show that as many as 40 percent of people with dementia are afflicted with depressive symptoms such as feelings of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, and sleep disturbances. in the middle stages of dementia, hallucinations and delusions tend to occur. These psychiatric symptoms can be managed and reduced. Measures should be discussed with the individual's physician, neurologist, or geriatric psychiatrist.