Sat, Nov 07, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Forgetfulness not always first sign of dementia: doctor

By Lin Chin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Elderly people who suffer from depression and paranoia should be checked for dementia even if they do not show signs of forgetfulness, a doctor said.

“Seniors suffering from the onset of dementia might initially experience depression and paranoia, but without forgetfulness,” said Tsai Meng-chao, (蔡孟釗), an attending physician in the psychiatry department of Taoyuan General Hospital.

Many people with dementia suffered depression or paranoia months or even years before manifesting forgetfulness and other memory-related symptoms, and ignorance of mood-related symptoms often resulted in missed diagnostic opportunities, he said.

Tsai cited the case of a 65-year-old man with diabetes, who often cried and accused his family of plotting against him six months before he was diagnosed as having vascular dementia.

A 70-year-old man who told his family that he was having trouble sleeping because a poltergeist was haunting his house and he was being spied on, was diagnosed three years later as having Lewy body dementia, Tsai said.

Neither man suffered from forgetfulness when they initially exhibited depressed and paranoid behavior, he said.

Research indicates that 8 percent of all people over 65 years of age suffer from dementia, he said.

“The public believes that the only symptom of dementia is forgetfulness. However, clinical experience and medical research showed that there are many types of dementia, and patients could experience other symptoms before memory loss,” he said.

Although dementia is partially genetic, maintaining a healthy blood lipid and blood pressure levels are beneficial to managing it, Tsai said, adding that keeping an optimal body weight and a regular sleep schedule might reduce the risk of dementia.

Early detection and treatment is crucial to slowing the disease’s progression, so people should pay close attention to changes in behavior of the elderly, he said.

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