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Dementia Isn’t Just a Memory Disorder

Posted by Deborah Bier, PhD on March 22, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Memory loss is the most commonly known disability connected with dementia. Yet, dementia is so much more than just a memory disorder. Here are some other types of disorders that may occur with dementia:

Movement: With many types of dementia, both fine and gross motor abilities decline, increasing a person’s fall risk. As dementia progresses, their ability to move typically becomes so impaired they need help with their personal care needs. In later stages, many become unable to walk or sit safely in a chair. Parkinson’s disease is a well-known movement disorder that may lead to dementia.

Communication: Many types of dementia impact the person’s ability to receive, send and process hearing, language, and/or speech. not-just-memory-loss.pngIn one type of dementia, called primary affective aphasia (a type of frontotemporal dementia), the person loses the ability to speak over time. Most, if not all, types of dementia involve difficulty in communication such as problems using and recalling words, disorganized speech or the inability to form understandable words due to movement disabilities. The ability to read and write also declines, and in later stages, the person may not be able to speak or understand language.

Behavior: Someone with dementia may act out or display unusual behavior or emotional upset in ways that vary person to person. This can involve an increased emotional sensitivity: getting angry, annoyed or nervous easier. The person may argue, become frustrated or have trouble learning. There could be inappropriate actions or emotional outbursts, such as temper tantrums. These behaviors can negatively affect the person’s ability to maintain relationships and interact with other people. Research is beginning to point to mild behavioral impairment as a very early sign of dementia.

Understanding the true nature of dementia enables us to provide appropriate care to people who live with it. With that knowledge, we can help keep them safe and happy. We can promote their independence by allowing them to do what they still can and assisting only in ways they need help.

For more caregiving tips, download our 10 Practical Care Tips Families Can Use When Caring for Someone With Dementia.

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Topics: Aging, Alzheimer's and Dementia, Healthy Living

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