Early signs of dementia include short-term memory impairment, difficulty finding the right words, mental and mood changes such as depression, apathy or a lack of inhibition, confusion and difficulty completing normal, everyday tasks. People with dementia may lose their sense of direction and have difficulty following complex storylines.
Dementia sufferers may also become resistant to change or become more repetitive in their speech or daily activities. It's important to realize that anyone can experience these signs and symptoms of dementia as a normal part of aging. To qualify as dementia, these changes to cognition must appear in two or more areas of function, such as language, focus and reasoning. They must also be serious enough to interfere with the person's daily life and ability to adequately care for themselves.
There is no cure for most types of dementia, though treatment can help with symptom management. Medications such as Aricept boost levels of a neurotransmitter involved in judgment and memory, while the drug Namenda targets learning in addition to memory. Other medications can help manage the sleep disturbances and other symptoms common to dementia. Non-drug approaches to treatment involve occupational therapy to help modify the patient's environment, daily tasks, and caregiver responses as the person's abilities change over time.
Risk factors for dementia primarily involve age and family history. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, smoking and heavy alcohol use can also increase the risk of dementia in later life.