It may begin with your loved one forgetting where they left their car keys and can eventually lead to potentially dangerous situations such as forgetting to switch off the heater or kitchen stove.

According to Alzheimer’s disease Foundation Malaysia (2016), it is predicted that currently there are about 50,000 people in Malaysia with this disease. The estimated number of older people with this disease worldwide is expected to double for every 20 years. It is surprising to know that most people in Malaysia perceive AD or dementia as a normal part of aging and thus they are not diagnosed and do not seek medical advice on it.

What is dementia?

Dementia affects a person’s mental ability and causes them to ‘forget’ things and experience problems, such as:

  • Remembering birthdays, names and the day or year
  • Speaking or writing
  • Misplacing where you left your medication or other items
  • Becoming angry or agitated

Types of dementia

There are more types of dementia than you may think. Some of the main types include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease (most common type): Degeneration of the brain leading to problems with memory, thinking skills and performing daily tasks.
  • Vascular dementia: Impaired supply of blood to the brain, causes a series of small strokes which, over time, contribute to a gradual mental decline.
  • Lewy body disease: Accumulation of abnormal microscopic protein deposits in the brain, leading to problems with attention and alertness, hallucinations and tremors.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: Damage to the right and left frontal lobes (front of the brain), resulting in deterioration in behaviour, personality, language disturbances, or alterations in muscle or motor functions.
  • Huntington’s disease: Brain cells slowly die causing problems with movement, coordination, communication, thinking and memory.
  • Alcohol related dementia: Due to excessive alcohol consumption affecting memory, learning and other mental functions.

Just forgetful, or do they have dementia?

Everyone becomes forgetful from time to time. But when does an ordinary memory lapse indicate something more serious? Memory loss experienced from dementia is different from ‘normal’ forgetfulness. An example of ‘normal’ forgetfulness, is misplacing the car keys, while dementia memory loss is like forgetting what your car keys are used for.

Early signs of dementia

One of the most common early signs of dementia can be memory loss but symptoms, whether obvious or subtle, vary for each person. Other signs of dementia may include:

  • Loss of ability to go shopping, gardening or perform personal grooming
  • Reduced concentration
  • Personality or behaviour changes
  • Wanting to be alone and away from loved ones
  • These are just a few of the possible ‘early’ indicators that something might not be ‘right’.

Remember: Only your local doctor will be able to properly diagnose dementia.

Cure or prevention

There is currently no cure for dementia. The onset of the neurological disease cannot yet be stopped or reversed. For years, researchers across the world have been investigating ways to cure dementia. While we wait for that historic moment being diagnosed with dementia early on can help you plan for the future.