The word “dementia” is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, including impairment in memory, reasoning, judgment, language and other thinking skills. Dementia begins gradually in most cases, worsens over time and significantly impairs a person’s abilities in work, social interactions and relationships.
Often, memory loss is one of the first or more recognizable signs of dementia. Other early signs may include:
-Asking the same questions repeatedly
-Forgetting common words when speaking
-Mixing words up — saying “bed” instead of “table,” for example
-Taking longer to complete familiar tasks, such as following a recipe
-Misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in a kitchen drawer
-Getting lost while walking or driving around a familiar neighborhood
-Undergoing sudden changes in mood or behavior for no apparent reason
-Becoming less able to follow directions
Diseases that cause progressive damage to the brain — and consequently result in dementia — include:
-Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia
-Vascular dementia (multi-infarct dementia)
-Lewy body dementia
Each of these conditions has a somewhat different disease process (pathology). Memory impairment isn’t always the first sign of disease, and the type of memory problems may vary.