Dementia: Detecting the Symptoms Beyond Memory Loss


Discovering that someone you love is experiencing symptoms of dementia can be an emotional and challenging moment. For family members, the responsibility of navigating the complexities of dementia is profound. Recognizing the early signs and seeking the right support is crucial to ensuring the well-being of our relatives and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Our team at Rockbridge Oaks, a Chattanooga memory care provider, is sharing information about dementia and what to look for beyond memory loss.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dementia?

Symptoms of dementia result when once-healthy brain neurons, called nerve cells, stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die. While everyone loses some neurons as they age, people with dementia experience far greater loss. Here are important signs you should be on the look for:

Memory Loss Beyond Forgetting Names

Memory loss is often the most commonly known symptom of dementia, but it goes beyond mere forgetfulness. It can manifest in different ways such as:

  • Forgetting events that happened recently
  • Repeating questions and not retaining the answer
  • Relying heavily on memory aids and family members for things they used to handle on their own

When these memory lapses start to disrupt daily life and happen more frequently, it’s time to consider that something more severe than old age may be at play.

Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks

When mom or dad struggle with familiar tasks, like cooking family recipes, it may be a sign of cognitive decline related to dementia. For instance, your once-skilled parent might find it challenging to navigate the kitchen, a space where they once effortlessly created meals. This difficulty in completing familiar tasks goes beyond mere aging; it reflects the impact of dementia on their cognitive abilities. 

Language and Communication Hurdles

If someone you love substitutes the word ‘dog’ for ‘door,’ it’s not just a slip of the tongue. It may be a telling sign that language, a fundamental pillar of human connection, is slipping away into the mists of confusion and abstraction. 

Disorientation in Time and Place

The confusion over time or location can be particularly distressing for you and your family members going through this. When the days blur, and familiar settings transform into labyrinthine challenges, gentle reminders and reassurances play a vital role in offering solace and guidance. 

Impaired Judgment and Decision-Making

You’ve always known your parents to be the rocks, the foundation of wisdom upon which you could lean. Now, when judgment starts to falter, it’s as disorienting for you as it is for them. They may make choices that seem out of character or impractical, reflecting the erosion of their cognitive faculties. Offering patience and empathy can help navigate this challenging time.

Struggles with Abstract Thinking

Money and numbers, the puzzle pieces of life, become increasingly enigmatic with dementia’s progression. What was once second nature now elicits frustration and misunderstanding. Engage in financial discussions with support and perhaps even consider managing these affairs with their consent.

Frequent Misplacement of Objects

As items are forgotten and end up in illogical places, it can lead to frustration, confusion, and a sense of disorientation for the individual. This symptom not only disrupts daily routines but also poses safety risks if essential items like medications or keys are misplaced. Your relative may experience anxiety and feelings of helplessness due to their inability to locate familiar objects, further exacerbating cognitive decline. Implementing strategies like labeling drawers can help alleviate some of the distress caused by this and provide a sense of structure and familiarity.

Shifts in Mood and Personality

Unembellished and endearing, the distinct personalities of Mom or Dad become vulnerable to profound changes under the shadow of dementia. You might witness moments of heightened anxiety, defensiveness, and even emotional volatility. Remember to show patience, empathy, and love throughout their journey.

Loss of Interest and Initiative

The love for hobbies or the zeal for daily tasks wanes. It’s vital not to assume disinterest but rather approach with guidance—sometimes, the fire needs nurturing until it can burn bright once again.

Visual and Spatial Challenges

Simple tasks that we often take for granted, like the delicate act of pouring a glass of water without a single spill, can unexpectedly transform into challenging hurdles to overcome throughout the course of a day. Remember, even in moments of difficulty, embrace patience and persistence to navigate through gracefully.

How to Help?

  • Acceptance is a key step. It’s about adjusting the expectations of your loved one and, perhaps more importantly, of yourself. Your role as the caregiver may evolve—from an advisor, to guide, to a protector of memories and a gatekeeper of the present.
  • Consider how to foster independence within the confines of their abilities. This might entail breaking down tasks into manageable steps, introducing memory aids, and creating a safe space in which they can move unencumbered by excessive anxiety.
  • Cognitive stimulation through engaging in activities tailored to their interests can be a source of joy and comfort, even amid the fog of dementia. Whether crafting, gardening, or simply enjoying the rhythms of nature, these pursuits hold the keys to unlocking residual pleasure and participation in life.
  • Lastly, it is crucial to adopt a communication strategy that is both clear and compassionate. Be prepared to listen more than you speak, use body language and tone effectively, and respond with patience and understanding.

At Rockbridge Oaks, our Chattanooga memory care neighborhood encourages residents with Alzheimer’s and other memory impairments to live with purpose and joy and help them find ways to thrive every day—all within a safe and secure environment. 

With a unique approach to memory care, we have designed a program to honor each resident’s preferences and personal legacy through customized care. We start with a wellness review to evaluate abilities and discover what’s most important to them. Then, we design an individualized approach of support that creates moments that are meaningful to them each day. Contact us for more information, and our team will be happy to help you navigate this journey.