Does Your Path lead to Dementia?

Worrying about Getting Dementia

If you are a family caregiver for a parent who has Dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s not uncommon to worry, “How will I know if I have dementia?” In fact, for some caregivers, it’s a constant fear because we’ve all heard that if someone in your family is diagnosed with dementia, then your risk increases. However, it doesn’t mean that you are sentenced to get dementia.

Dementia isn’t walking into the pantry and forgetting what you were looking for. The pantry example is just everyday forgetfulness that most of us experience. Dementia is much more complicated than that. Symptoms associated with dementia are memory loss, anxiety, hallucinations, fear, loneliness, nightmares, and confusion. Each of these symptoms can occur several times a day or last for several days. This disease starts out slowly and may take a while to properly diagnose.

If your worry is getting in the way of you providing good care, then do something proactive to eliminate your fear and take a test at a neurologist called the mini-mental state exam (MMSE). This test is designed to give you a baseline of what your short-term memory is like and measure your cognitive abilities. Before that, your doctor should order several other tests including blood work, a CAT scan, and a PET scan.

Can dementia be prevented?

Dementia is hard to prevent, because what causes it often unknown. But people who have dementia caused by stroke may be able to prevent future declines by lowering their risk of heart disease and stroke. Even if you don’t have these known risks, your overall health can benefit from not smoking, staying at a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, eating high-quality foods, managing diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Keep your brain sharp by learning new hobbies, reading, and puzzle-solving. Keep your spirits up by staying socially active.