The early symptoms of dementia are very similar to what most people consider a normal part of “aging.” These include symptoms like memory loss, confusion, disorientation, inability to do normal activities, withdrawal, agitation, and frustration. Many patients who face such problems do not consult a doctor, thinking, “This must be normal at my age. I’ll look foolish if I go to a doctor with these problems.” living with dementia is an excellent resource for this.
On the other hand, when people who know about dementia experience such symptoms, they suspect (or fear) that they have dementia. However, they hesitate to consult a doctor because of the stigma of being diagnosed with dementia. In some cultures people may associate “dementia” with strange behavior, helplessness, and negativity, and they don’t want to be labeled as dementia patients. In other cultures, where dementia awareness is poor, there is a stigma about a dementia diagnosis because people associate dementia with insanity. People also hesitate to get a diagnosis because they have heard that dementia is incurable, so they see no point in “wasting” time and money by going to a doctor.
Not all memory loss is dementia
There are many types of memory loss. Also, everyone forgets things once in a while. Some memory problems are a typical part of aging, while others could indicate a serious underlying medical condition. Often, elders get worried by their forgetfulness and this worry and stress makes them more inattentive and increases their forgetfulness.
By talking to a doctor, people facing the memory loss can get a proper assessment of their problem, its possible causes, and treatment. Doctors can determine whether the patient’s memory problem indicates cognitive decline, and whether this decline is mild (called mild cognitive impairment) or whether it has crossed the threshold beyond which it indicates a diagnosis of dementia. Also, some causes for memory loss can be treated.
Sometimes, depression is mistaken for dementia
Depression can reduce the ability to pay attention and can cause memory problems. Lay persons cannot distinguish whether their memory loss and confusion is caused by dementia or by depression. Depression responds well to treatment, and the symptoms can reverse. Getting a timely diagnosis is therefore useful.