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Healthy Aging

When Cognitive Decline Becomes a Concern

It is normal to experience some cognitive decline as we age; however, there are some symptoms that should be discussed with a doctor if they occur too often. Pavandip Virdi, MD, a family medicine provider specializing in geriatric medicine at Bayhealth, explains that dementia is when two or more of the main functions of the brain (memory, thinking, language, judgment or behavior) are impaired. The most well-known and common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease though there are several others.

“One of the reasons I strive to build strong relationships with my patients is so I might recognize symptoms that patients are sometimes trying to hide. Often people do not want to admit when they are experiencing cognitive decline. That is why it is important for me and for loved ones to watch for signs as people age,” said Dr. Virdi.

Signs to look for

1. Memory concerns - Those experiencing cognitive decline are often good with long term memories and routines but forget things they did earlier in the day. They may repeat themselves forgetting they already said or did something.
2. Trouble thinking - Multitasking and problem solving often become confusing. It may take longer to complete a normal task as they become increasingly distracted by other things.
3. Language slip ups - Having trouble recalling common words in a conversation or making atypical grammar errors can be cause for concern.
4. Poor judgment in social situations - People with dementia may say inappropriate or even rude things that they would not have said before the cognitive decline.
5. Changes in behavior - They may seem more anxious about things or even depressed. There may be a loss of interest in hobbies that used to be enjoyable.

Three ways to help support your loved one

1. Talk to their doctor - Some patients do not want to admit having a problem so if you see signs of two or more of the areas above be sure their doctor knows. There is no cure for dementia but there is medicine that can slow the symptoms.
2. Help improve their environment - Reduce clutter, noise and overstimulating things in their living space. These things can add to distraction and confusion.
3. Help modify tasks - Assist with breaking things down into smaller steps. For example, instead of asking them to get ready, tell them to go brush their hair. While they do that, choose two outfits they can pick from to wear.

Remember prevention is always the better route so work with your family doctor to live a healthy lifestyle, avoiding heart disease, obesity and smoking, which can all increase the chances of suffering cognitive decline later in life.

Visit Bayhealth.org/Family-Medicine to learn more about Dr. Virdi and the Bayhealth Family Medicine, Dover team.

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