EARLIEST SIGN

“Lately, my husband Jim has been acting strangely and making some bad decisions. He recently bought another lawnmower exactly like the one we have; it still works. When I asked why and pointed out it was a waste of money, he got angry, shouting back, “It’s a backup!”

He walks the dog every morning, and today didn’t use his leash. Sparky got lost, and we didn’t find him till hours later. He claimed the dog slipped out before he could grab him and blamed me for not putting it back where it’s supposed to be. But it was hanging where it always is, and he left without it. He makes excuses for everything and never feels he’s done anything wrong. He’ll get angry and act like I’m the problem.

Jim thinks to himself, “What is her problem? I need that lawnmower. She nags me all the time. And hey, the dog got out the door before I could find his leash. She didn’t put it back where it’s supposed to be!”

EXECUTIVE FUNCTION LOSS

One of the earliest signs of dementia is executive function impairment. This creates poor judgment and problems with reasoning and decision making. They become disorganized, have difficulty planning, and carrying out tasks. It often occurs together with memory issues but can happen even when no memory problems seem evident.

Behavior is also affected, and the person might seem selfish and unable to empathize or understand how their behavior is affecting others. They might get defensive or angry if corrected, staunchly defending their decisions. It’s usually the spouse or family who notices these changes, although at first, it might not seem apparent somethings really wrong, as the person usually seems normal to everyone else.

Losing executive function can also leave the person vulnerable to unscrupulous people who can take advantage of them; especially if the person is living independently and still managing their own affairs. There are many stories about how the gullible elderly get preyed upon, losing their money, and even signing over their property. If the person is still using a computer, they might binge shop or get duped by scammers or give out banking information over the phone.

Their emotional outbursts often become more frequent, and Jim, who had always been a happy person isn’t so happy anymore.

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