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Dementia is a decline or loss of reasoning, memory, and other mental abilities (the cognitive functions such as judgment, thinking, behavior, and language) and is not a normal part of aging. This decline is progressive and eventually impairs the ability to carry out everyday activities such as driving; household chores; and even personal care such as bathing, dressing, and feeding (often called activities of daily living).

According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, about 47 million people worldwide have dementia, with a projected increase to 75 million by 2030 with nearly 10 million new cases each year.

What Are Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Dementia?

Symptoms of dementia vary considerably by the individual and the underlying cause of the dementia. Most people affected by dementia have some (but not all) of these symptoms. The symptoms may be very obvious, or they may be very subtle and go unrecognized for some time. The first sign of dementia is usually loss of short-term memory. The person repeats what he just said or forgets where she put an object just a few minutes ago. Other symptoms and signs are as follows:

Early dementia symptoms and signs
  • Word-finding difficulty: May be able to compensate by using synonyms or defining the word
  • Forgetting names, appointments, or whether or not the person has done something; losing things
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks: Driving, cooking a meal, household chores, managing personal finances
  • Personality changes (for example, sociable person becomes withdrawn or a quiet person is coarse and silly)
  • Uncharacteristic behavior
  • Mood swings, often with brief periods of anger or rage
  • Poor judgment
  • Behavior disorders: Paranoia and suspiciousness
  • Decline in level of functioning but able to follow established routines at home
  • Confusion, disorientation in unfamiliar surroundings: May wander, trying to return to familiar surroundings
  • Difficulty or inability to multitask
Are Dementia, Senility, and Alzheimer's Disease the Same Things?
  • Dementia occurs most commonly in elderly people; it used to be called senility and/or senile dementia, and was considered a normal part of aging. Affected people were labeled as demented. The term "senile dementia" is infrequently used in the current medical literature and has been replaced by the term "dementia."
  • "Senile dementia," "senility," and "demented" are older outdated terms that incorrectly label people with memory loss, confusion and other symptoms as a normal part of aging.
  • Dementia, as defined above, is a constellation of ongoing symptoms that are not part of normal aging (even though it occurs most often in older individuals) that have a large number of different causes, for example, Alzheimer's disease is the major cause of dementia in individuals (about 60%-70%) but it is only one of many problems that can cause dementia.
Depression and dementia

Depression and dementia share several symptoms, making it difficult to distinguish between the two. It helps to how the common symptoms manifest in each disease.

  • Mental decline is rapid
  • Patients can state the correct date, time, and they are
  • Patients have difficulty concentrating
  • Language and motor skills are slow but normal
  • Patients notice and worry about memory problems and confusion
  • Mental decline is slow
  • Patients become confused and disoriented and may get lost, confuse dates, or wonder where they are
  • Patients struggle with short-term memory
  • Writing, speaking, and language skills are impaired
  • Patients don’t notice or seem to care about memory problems

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