Brandywine Family Medicine Blog


Published 06.11.2021

The lifetime risk of getting dementia is about 20% and obviously, the risk increases with age. You have a greater risk of dementia if there is a family history of dementia or you have a history of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, or obesity. Alzheimer's type dementia is more common in the elderly and frontotemporal dementia is more common in the young 50-60-year-old group.

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish normal memory issues from early dementia. Normally as we age we have more problems remembering phone numbers or directions to someplace new without writing them down.

Early dementia symptoms include:

  • difficulty preparing meals or fixing things around the house
  • finding social events less pleasurable
  • difficulty finding the correct words and names for things
  • problems understanding
  • forgetting common tasks, forgetting to pay bills
  • difficulty using familiar technology
  • apathy, impaired judgment, irritability
  • sleep disturbances
  • problems recalling recent events
  • getting lost in familiar places
  • problems driving
  • repeating questions or stories
  • delusions can be present late in the disease

If you are aware of the problem but no one else is mentioning it you are probably ok and it is more likely a stress issue, depression or anxiety
If you aren’t aware of an issue but others are making comments there probably is an issue with dementia. People with dementia aren’t particularly worried about it.

There are some medications that can be used to help slow progression of dementia. It is difficult to judge if they are really helping or not but rarely do you see an improvement with them. Cholinesterase inhibitors like donepezil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon) help with some of the symptoms but can have side effects like dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea. Memantine (Namenda) helps slow progression of the disease somewhat but it can also cause dizziness.

Alzheimer's dementia is a progressive disease and nothing can change that. The medications tend to slow progression to a point and then things can suddenly get worse.

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