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Dementia is More Than Memory Loss

It may surprise you to know dementia is not a disease. Rather, it's a collection of symptoms. And it may also surprise you to know those symptoms go beyond memory loss and include problems with language, communication, focus and reasoning.

While the leading cause of dementia is Alzheimer's, a condition that affects over 5 million Americans, it can also be caused by brain injury, stroke, and other diseases, such as Huntington's.

Because Alzheimer's is incurable, people may not report dementia symptoms or underlying conditions may go undiagnosed or undisclosed. However, there are many benefits to an awareness and understanding of these symptoms, including:

  • more support
  • better decision-making about the patient’s life, for both the present and the future
  • better medical care

Common early dementia symptoms include:

Subtle, short-term memory changes. The person may forget what he or she had for breakfast,  while recalling something that happened a decade ago.

Repetitiveness: This may range from repeating daily tasks unnecessarily to asking the same question over and over.

Difficulty finding the right words: Conversations may take longer, as a person struggles with explaining or describing a story or situation. 

Mood or personality changes:  Depression, or even a shift in reasoning skills, can alter individual traits.

Loss of interest: Apathy may increase as the person stops pursuing favorite hobbies, fun activities and opportunities to see friends and family.

Problems learning new things:  Playing a new game or learning a simple skill can represent a big challenge. This may also include complex normal tasks the patient previously did.

Confusion with directions: Not recalling a familiar place or landmark, a sense of disorientation or problems following step-by-step directions are very common dementia symptoms.

If you suspect you or someone you love is dealing with dementia symptoms, it's important to seek evaluation from a medical professional. 

"While facing possible diagnosis of Alzheimer's is incredibly daunting, it's important that individuals and their families benefit from care, support and education to help them navigate, or possibly minimize, the symptoms," said Kara Tower, DO, a neurologist with Monroe Clinic. "No matter what a person's age or diagnosis, quality of life is always a goal worth seeking."

Monroe Clinic Memory Center offers diagnostic assessment, treatment and support to adults who are experiencing cognitive changes such as decreases in memory, concentration, reasoning or planning abilities.
The Memory Care Team examines these changes and their effects on day-to-day living with a comprehensive evaluation including:  
•    Assessment of Symptom Progression
•    Neurocognitive Testing and Analysis
•    Neurological Examination

Memory Center Appointments
A patient should talk to his or her primary care provider about getting a referral to the Memory Center. An appointment may be made by directly calling Monroe Clinic Neurology at 608-324-2148 or 800-338-0568.  For a comprehensive evaluation to be completed, both the patient and family member(s) take part.