Have you ever gone into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, and then forgot what you went into the kitchen for? You see dirty dishes, start to tidy up, take something out of the freezer for dinner, then try to remember why you came into the kitchen to begin with? This is a normal part of functioning and aging.
Dementia, on the other hand, means going into the kitchen to make coffee and not remembering the steps or how to operate the coffee maker.
Warning signs of dementia include memory loss that disrupts daily life, difficulty in completing familiar tasks, confusion with time and place, decreased or poor judgment, challenges in planning or solving problems and withdrawal from work or social activities.
Early diagnosis is the key. It’s important to get a diagnosis. What you are experiencing may not even be dementia. It might be something that can be fixed. If a dementia diagnosis is made, there is still some time to improve diet and exercise habits, the earlier the better as these can improve the quality of life. If a diagnosis is made early, there is still time to make or review financial, health care and end-of-life plans. It is possible to make decisions for care that can be carried out as the dementia progresses. Most importantly early diagnosis means there is still time to do the things you like and want to do. This may be traveling, spending time with family, volunteering, or running a marathon. Medications are available to moderate symptoms and provide time to do the things you enjoy. The medication does not, however, alter the course of the disease.
People in early stages of the disease have learned to live with memory loss and still maintain productive lives with family and friends. It is important to gather with other people with memory loss for support, to share experiences and identify needs to maintain engagement in order to contribute to family and community.