A few days ago, the family of Bruce Willis gave the public an update on his health. Sadly, the Die Hard actor now has frontotemporal dementia; Bruce Willis’ diagnosis before was aphasia. It’s heartbreaking to see a previously venerated actor deal with an illness with no cure. But thanks to his family letting the fans know of his condition, the topic of dementia is brought to light — because millions of people also have to go through this disease. And there are sometimes subtle but concerning signs of dementia that individuals may not notice.
Signs of Dementia to Look Out For
Dementia is widely-known for having “forgetfulness” as its main characteristic. While that’s true — and indeed, it’s one of the most surefire ways that a physician can diagnose that a person has one — not everyone who experiences memory loss like that has dementia. Before we dive deep into the signs of dementia, a doctor must first rule out other causes of forgetfulness; a person may be dealing with that because of amnesia, a head injury, stroke, and other conditions associated with that symptom.
Signs of dementia, however, can be subtle at first. It can be as mundane as the person asking the same questions over and over again (the intervals vary) or they seem to be under the weather — because they’re having difficulty concentrating or carrying out tasks that should come naturally to them; like their morning routine or they just don’t seem to be in the mood to do the things they always initiated doing.
It’s also very important to ask your loved one’s physician what type of dementia your relative is suffering from. Different types of dementia have different signs and symptoms; people with Alzheimer’s Disease can suffer from anxiety and wander off and get lost (as they tend to forget places that used to be familiar to them), those with dementia with Lewy bodies are at risk of fainting and have sleep disturbances, and patients with frontotemporal dementia can turn into a “different” person — they might start craving unusual foods, crack inappropriate jokes, or they might turn apathetic to the ones they used to care for.
Caring for Someone with Dementia
If you’re related to the person who has dementia, know that it’s natural to feel upset or even depressed about the situation — nobody likes seeing their loved one forget you and the memories they had with you. But try to understand that whatever is happening to their brain is out of their control. If only they could treasure every single memory they have of you, they would keep it with them for as long as they’re alive. However, sadly — and realistically — dementia will continuously take over.
Regardless if you’re related to the person with dementia or not, do your best to be patient with them — they have to relearn everything all over again (but they most probably will forget them right away also). If they’re experiencing crying spells, it’s probably because they’re confused as they don’t know the environment they’re in — or they’re frustrated because they’re trying to understand something they can’t; like who you are, where they are, and what’s going on in the first place.
If you can keep an eye on them — for as much as you can — it’s best that you do just that. Remember, some tend to wander off. You’ve probably seen on the news before how some dementia patients (especially the elderly) are found by people in places far away from their homes — those are the luckier ones. Some end up getting lost and never being found again. And you definitely wouldn’t want that happening to the person you’re caring for! It’s a painstaking chore — that’s for sure! But at the end of the day, it’s in exchange for the person’s safety and well-being.
In a Perfect World,
dementia would be something nobody has to deal with in the first place. Unfortunately, some of the people we love (or even we ourselves) have to endure this condition. And many signs of dementia sometimes go unnoticed. But just because someone you love is slowly losing their grasp on who they were — and what they contributed — that doesn’t mean it’s who they are now. If they’re gradually losing memories they had with you, you can keep them in yours on behalf of them.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.