Most of us will slow down a bit, physically and mentally, as we get older ' but there's a big difference between occasional forgetfulness and senility, or senile dementia. Here's what to look for if you are concerned that someone in your family may be suffering from this condition, which is often connected with Alzheimer's disease.
Consider the family history. Is there a background of senile dementia or Alzheimer's disease? There is often a genetic predisposition toward this condition in members of the same family.
Look for signs of memory loss and language difficulties. Is the person losing words, or forgetting the names of common objects? Has he or she forgotten how to do simple mathematics?
Watch out for confusion and loss of attention span. Is the person unable to focus on a normal conversation? Does he or she get mixed up when trying to perform basic tasks?
Rule out undiagnosed hearing or vision loss. These may hinder a person's ability to communicate effectively, and can make someone seem more confused than he or she really is.
Monitor inappropriate behavior and impaired judgment. If the person begins to act inappropriately or significantly out of character in social situations, he or she may be showing signs of senile dementia.
Look out for mood changes, irritability or emotional agitation. Often, people in the early stages of senile dementia are aware that something is happening to them, and this can be both frightening and depressing.
Watch for physical coordination problems and physical confusion. People with senile dementia often forget how to do simple learned tasks that have been part of their daily life for many years.
Watch the person walk. Changes in gait are often symptomatic of senile dementia, although they can also be connected with other neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease.
Be extra loving and patient with someone who may be showing symptoms of senile dementia, even if he or she is moody and irritable. The person may be frustrated with himself or herself, and will almost certainly be frightened by these symptoms. People suffering from senile dementia often retain memories from long ago, but lose more recent memories. Spend time talking with them about the things they do remember, and don't take it personally if they forget who you are, or where they are.
Sometimes, symptoms of senile dementia can be caused by drug reactions; double-check with your doctor and pharmacist to find out if this is a possibility. Watch out for extremely aggressive behavior ' this symptom is exhibited by some, though not all, people suffering from senile dementia. If the person becomes dangerous to himself or herself or to you, seek professional help immediately. People who exhibit symptoms of senile dementia are often in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and should be taken to a doctor and a neurologist as soon as the symptoms become apparent. If you have any questions or concerns, contact a physician or other health care professional before engaging in any activity related to health and diet. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.