“She doesn’t remember as well as she used to. She can remember things that happened long ago, but not what happened yesterday. She’ll ask me the same question several times a day, sometimes after only five minutes. She gets lost in the grocery store. I’ve noticed this has been getting worse over the past two years.”
As we age, our thinking skills gradually diminish and we realize that we are not as mentally sharp as we once were. The question arises if we need to be concerned about dementia. There are a number of different kinds of dementia, or what people used to call “senility”. Dementia is a disease of the central nervous system that reduces brain functioning gradually over time.
- Vascular Dementia
- Frontotemporal Dementia
- Lewy Body
- HIV/ AIDS Related Dementia
- and other degenerative diseases of the brain.
The most familiar type of dementia is Alzheimer’s dementia. The main characteristic of Alzheimer’s is gradual loss of short term memory, but other things can also be affected. The person can have problems making decisions, paying bills, finding their way around, recalling names, finding the right word to say, controlling or showing emotions, or remembering how to do things. Often the early signs of dementia look like depression or anxiety, which can also mimic dementia. It is important to diagnose dementia early because there are helpful treatments that can improve daily functioning, though there is no way to slow the progression of the disease or to cure it.
Some patients do not yet have dementia, but are diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Individuals with MCI have a decrease in one or more areas of thinking, but the decrease is not significant enough to be diagnosed as a dementia. This is a critical time to diagnose problems with thinking and memory, because it is currently believed that the earlier a person receives treatment, the better the chance that the patient will remain independent for a longer period of time. If you have concerns that your thinking skills are not as good as they once were, and you are worried that the changes are not just a part of normal aging, then you may want to ask us about neuropsychological testing. If you would like to set an appointment contact our office.