How to identify the tell-tale signs of dementia

MOSCOW, ID - Dementia is a common problem among older Americans, and it's hard on both the victim and their caregivers.

"The brain is dying," said Adult Day Health Social Worker Sarah Rial. "The brain is no longer functioning and it's losing it ability to regenerate."

Dementia is a common brain disease that comes in more than 200 forms.

"Well dementia, is really an umbrella term first of all," said Rial. "Much like cancer is an umbrella term. You know, if somebody said, 'You have cancer.' You'd be like, 'What kind?'"

Sarah Rial is a social worker at Adult Day Health, a center that provides elder care and support for caregivers on the Palouse. She says the best way to combat dementia is early detection.

"You know, one of the first things that happens is that inability to remember things," said Rial.

But many people avoid going to the doctor because they're afraid of getting diagnosed with the disease.

"When you start noticing the symptoms, that's when you need to go," said Rial.

She said that generally, short term memory loss does not alone indicate that someone has dementia.

"You can no longer problem solve well, because you can't remember anything," said Rial. "You begin to have trouble with words. You get confused with time and place."

Genetics are also a factor. Dementia is more common among older people, and in women. But that's simply because they live longer.

"People are getting diagnosed earlier, and that is a good thing because the treatments do help," said Rial. "But it's scary because we're seeing how much more prevalent this is."

Bottom line, if you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from dementia....

"Go to the doctor," said Rial. "You could have something that's treatable."

Friday, Latah County AARP members are invited to learn about the ten signs of dementia. The luncheon starts at 11:30 at the Best Western in Moscow.