Diseases like dementia are incredibly scary, both for the sufferers and the people who love them most. However, knowing the signs of Dementia, early on, can help everyone feel more prepared. More prepared for the uncertainty, emotional turmoil, or confusion. Fortunately, on October 17, 2023, Dr. Richard Restak published his book, How to Prevent Dementia. The book discusses some early warnings of the disease. In the book, the doctor discloses that there are four major early warning signs of dementia. He calls the signs of dementia the “Four A’s” and explains how they can show up in everyday tasks including brushing your teeth. “Four impairments underlie the outer expressions and inner experiences of the Alzheimer patient,” he wrote.

1. Signs of Dementia might be Amnesia

Memory loss due to dementia. Senior man losing parts of head as symbol of decreased mind function.
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Dr. Restak notes that as people age it’s not uncommon to become forgetful. Therefore, there’s only a cause for alarm if it happens frequently and with things that should be second nature. For example, if you find yourself frequently forgetting things like your address your name, or the names of your family. He also notes that because this is a commonality of aging, it may not be a guaranteed sign of dementia.

Read More: Young Man Invents “Water You Can Eat” to Help Dementia Patients Like His Grandma Stay Hydrated

2. Or Aphasia

high angle view of senior man collecting jigsaw puzzle as dementia rehab
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Aphasia is a disorder that refers to a communication and comprehension disorder. Meaning, one’s ability to read, write, or speak may become weaker. In a day to day, this might look like someone who has forgotten a word for something or misunderstands how the word should be used. However, Dr. Restak notes that this also may not be one of the sure signs of dementia. So, why include them? The answer is simple. People and diseases have one important commonality. We, like diseases, differ case by case. Some symptoms may apply to one person but not to all and no disease fits into one box or check list. Instead, we, and diseases, have some traits that fit into one category but maybe not another. Therefore, although these signs of dementia may not be universal, they can for some, have a profoundly positive impact in learning to address and cope with the disease.

3. Agnosia and Apraxia are Sure Signs of Dementia

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Agnosia is a disease that impacts the senses. It prohibits one’s ability to recognize familiar people or places. This can be through sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste. Some examples include not recognizing a loved one, home, or favorite location for a Saturday outing. Meanwhile, the last of the four signs of dementia is apraxia, the condition that becomes apparent in everyday tasks like brushing your teeth. The condition impacts muscle strength and function. Dr. Restak warns that someone with apraxia can forget to brush, or even struggle to hold the toothbrush, but it goes much deeper than that. A person suffering from apraxia will often fail to “tie all the actions together” or be able to do them in the correct order. “A person with apraxia may be able to recognize and even name a toothbrush and toothpaste but may be unable to carry out the act of squeezing the toothpaste onto the toothbrush.” He wrote. “All the muscle components are present but can’t be coordinated.” For those in later stages, they may also struggle to bathe or dress themselves. “Many, if not all, expressions of Alzheimer’s can be explained by reference to the four A’s,” Restak stated in How to Prevent Dementia.

4. Dementia Vs. Alzheimer’s

Healthy brain vs. Alzheimer's brain
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The book is entitled How to Prevent Dementia. However, Dr. Restak references Alzheimer’s a number of times. This is because the two diseases have always been thought to be incredibly similar. While this is true, it turns out that one often leads to the other, and they have a few key differences. Dementia is a general medical term for what happens to the brain as a result of age, pathology, or trauma. The name for the group of symptoms that disrupt one’s ability to function and perform ever day activities. On the other hand, Alzheimer’s often leads to dementia and is more common among those who are considered elderly or seniors.

Read More: The music therapy that helped Gabby Giffords speak again is helping dementia patients moving

5. Speaking with a Professional

Senior with dementia or Alzheimer's is comforted by caring female doctor
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It is recommended to speak with a medical professional as soon as possible or someone you know may be exhibiting signs of dementia. They will be able to better discuss your symptoms and do testing to more accurately pinpoint the cause. However, the conversation can be both emotional, scary, and uncomfortable. There are some things one can do to help make the conversation go more smoothly. First, ensure that the environment is calm, quiet, and free of distractions like the TV. Next, prepare for the emotional roller-coaster. Present only facts but in a way that is compassionate and understanding. Use short sentences and words and quickly sum up the desired points. Allow the other person to speak as well. In some cases, it may also be ideal to have professional support in place. For example, a religious leader, primary care provider, or licensed therapist will more than likely be able to offer emotional support, resources, and in some cases medical advice about what lies ahead. Either way, understanding the signs of dementia is the first step in learning to live and overcome the challenges associated with the disease.

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