Dementia: Changes in your physical appearance can signal the onset of brain decline

Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia

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Dementia refers to a cluster of symptoms associated with brain decline. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Your physical appearance is said to also change in the early stages of the condition and may be deemed as early warning symptoms.

A recent article published in The Washington Post, entitled ‘Well, that was a weird moment’ further explored unusual early warning signs of dementia.

The article starts with the story of a father who began exhibiting odd behaviours.

At work he stopped following through with clients, quit returning phone calls promptly, and began taking more breaks.

At home he started drinking, watching more TV, and was quick to become angry.

The article further explored unusual early signs of dementia to spot pertaining to behaviour and appearance which include:

  • Notes with reminders about simple tasks
  •  When neighbours or friends share concerns
  •  Bills not paid or overpaid
  •  Physical appearance — someone who was always put together suddenly wears wrinkled or dirty clothing
  •  Weight changes
  •  Driving issues: fender benders, parking in the wrong spot
  •  Picking up an object and using it inappropriately
  •  Saying things that are inappropriate — “no filter”
  •  Changes in speech, personality
  •  Any behaviour that is out of the ordinary.

As routines are disrupted by memory difficulties caused by the brain degenerative condition, a lack of personal hygiene is often one of the first indications that someone is having major problems.

Previously clean and tidy individuals may begin to look unkempt.

Problems with poor toileting habits, bathing, and incontinence cause staining and odours.

Appearance, previously important, gradually loses meaning.

Facial expression in people with dementia may also be affected and may be deemed as first early warning signs.

The person’s facial expression may be inappropriate to the situation at times, such as laughing in a serious or sad time or sudden tearfulness when there doesn’t seem to be any trigger.

People with dementia may also reflect feelings of anxiety, depression, agitation, bewilderment or a lack of feelings.

Other early warning symptoms could include:

  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation of time and place
  • Poor or decreased judgement
  • Problems with keeping track of things
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Trouble with images and spatial relationships.

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