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4 Unusual Signs of Dementia That Most Older Adults Miss

By Diane Lansing November 01, 2018 Health and Fitness

Many women over the age of 60 express concerns about the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Will it affect me someday? Or will it affect someone I love? What are the signs I should watch for?

You’ve probably seen the list of 10 Warning Signs from the Alzheimer’s Association. But did you know that researchers are discovering more unusual early signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia?

Changes in Balance or Gait

Studies done in both the United States and France reveal that frequent falls may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

The studies looked at people who otherwise appeared healthy but displayed Alzheimer’s-related lesions in their brains. Their fall rate proved to be more than twice that of the average person their age.

Interestingly, studies also revealed that a decline in walking speed may indicate early Alzheimer’s dementia. This conclusion was reached after ruling out other possible causes such as arthritis or muscle weakness.

Decreased Sense of Smell

Multiple research studies suggest a link between Alzheimer’s disease and difficulty identifying certain odors. This makes sense because the part of the brain associated with smell is one of the first areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

While the scents used in each study varied, some of the most common were peanut butter, peppermint, coffee, orange, and leather.

Scientists are hopeful that someday a simple sniff test could provide an inexpensive and noninvasive test for Alzheimer’s disease. For now, it may be used as part of a battery of several tests to screen for early signs of Alzheimer’s.

Changes in Sense of Taste

As Alzheimer’s disease affects the part of the brain involved with taste, people often experience changes in their food preferences. This, in turn, can lead to changes in appetite and weight.

Some people show increased cravings for sweets. Others lose interest in their favorite foods resulting in weight loss. There are even situations where people don’t recognize that food is spoiled, or they consume substances that are inedible.

Unusual Social Responses

People experiencing early Alzheimer’s disease may display long periods of staring into space. This is also common with another form of dementia known as dementia with Lewy bodies.

More recently, researchers discovered that people with a condition called frontotemporal dementia often have difficulty recognizing when other people tell lies or display sarcasm during conversations. This is due to damage to the area of the brain that controls judgment.

What to Do if You See These Signs

No one wants to consider that a loved one might be developing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Yet, it’s important not to ignore these early warning signs.

The good news is that there are many other conditions that can cause these changes, and many of them are reversible. This includes medication side effects, certain vitamin deficiencies, and infections.

Your first step is to contact your medical provider who will do simple screening tests and provide referrals as needed. Even if it does prove to be dementia, early diagnosis and treatment often lead to an improved quality of life.

Which of these early signs of dementia has you most concerned? Which ones do you think would be easier to recognize? Do you know what to do if you notice any of those signs in a loved one? Please take a moment to share your thoughts below.

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The Author

Diane Lansing, RN, enjoys working part-time as a corporate wellness nurse. She has over 25 years of experience in geriatric nursing, and her passion is working with residents of memory care units. She loves volunteering at nursing homes and blogs about her experiences at NursingHomeVolunteer.com.

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