SOMETHING’S DIFFERENT

“Yesterday I fought again with my wife. We’ve had a really good marriage until lately and I don’t know what is going on with her. She keeps telling me I’m wrong when I know I’m right. First, its little things like, “Don’t go out for a drive at three in the morning. I can’t sleep, why can’t I go for a drive if I want?” She got mad when I bought an expensive new lawnmower because the old one works just fine. Then she tells me I’m forgetting a lot and keeps reminding me I’m repeating what I’m saying. That’s just part of getting older. She is aggravating me so much I’ve begun hollering at her and she sometimes starts to cry making me feel awful. The other day I ate something from the refrigerator, it tasted ok but it must have been bad; I was throwing up all night. Worse yet, she keeps nagging me to take a shower or shave; says I stink. I already took one and she swears I haven’t.”

She’s concerned and wants me to get a check-up with a doctor, but there is nothing wrong with me!”

Dementia progression at the beginning is very insidious. The person’s personality starts to change, they make some bad decisions and they become prone to emotional outbursts. They seem perfectly normal to most people and at first even family doesn’t notice. But then they eventually begin to.

Memory loss is usually the most noticeable change but often the changes begin long before. They start making bad decisions as the executive functioning of the brain deteriorates. With early Alzheimer’s they may lose their sense of smell and not be able to tell when food is off. Their hygiene becomes lax and they don’t shave or shower for days. Their sleep patterns change and they have less control over their emotions. This part of early dementia progression along with slight memory loss is often overlooked and explained away as part of getting older.

Depending on the cause of dementia, by the time then the memory loss begins to affect their ability to function the person has usually had it for several years. Even the family doctor may not have detected a problem before this. It would take a specialist in dementia to identify the earlier executive function deterioration and that would largely depend on what the family has observed. Often the person with early dementia is in denial and has very reasonable excuses for what’s happening to them.

Some of those who are aware of their changes often feel something is not right. But at these stages, they are still functioning so it gets ignored.

After all, nobody wants to think they might be getting dementia.

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