A new study from the U.K. shows that one-third of people who notice dementia symptoms in themselves or a loved one keep quiet about it for a month or more. Only 15% of the 1,100 patients and caregivers surveyed talked about their observations right away, and 11% still haven’t.
The Alzheimer’s Society in London announced the results of the poll on Monday. Participants included people who had been identified with dementia and their caretakers, as well as people who might get dementia and their caretakers.
The poll found that almost a quarter of the people asked waited more than six months before going to the doctor. The most common reason for keeping quiet wasn’t worry about the disease, which usually gets worse over time. Instead, those who were harmed didn’t know for sure which symptoms come with normal aging and which come with dementia.
Bruce Willis, a famous actor, is a good example. Tallulah Willis wrote an article for Vogue on May 31 about how her dad was diagnosed with aphasia in 2022. Aphasia makes it hard to speak, understand speech, read, and write. She also talked about his more general diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia, which usually affects people 45 to 64 years old. The National Institute on Aging says that the condition is marked by strange behaviors, trouble controlling feelings, and trouble talking and walking.
Like many other guardians, she says that looking back, it’s easy to see the signs that her father’s mind was getting worse. She thought at the time that his “vague unresponsiveness” was just “Hollywood hearing loss.”
“I’ve known for a long time that something was wrong,” she said. “Family members would often tell each other to “speak up! Die Hard made Dad’s ears hurt.”
“Later, that lack of response got worse, and I sometimes took it to heart,” she said.
Kate Lee, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society, said in a news release about the study that confusion, stigma, and worry about dementia, which will affect a third of people at some point in their lives, slow down diagnosis and treatment. “We can’t continue to avoid using the ‘d’ word,” she said. “We need to face the problem of dementia head-on.”
How to Tell the Difference Between Getting Old and Having Dementia
Dr. John Schumann, the executive medical director of Oak Street Health, a chain of basic care clinics for older people, tells Fortune that dementia is not a normal part of getting older.
Dr. David Reuben, who runs the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine’s Multicampus Program in Geriatrics Medicine and Control, agrees. He compares aging, which is a natural biological process, to a “slower computer processor in your brain.
” When a word or phrase is “on the tip of your tongue” and you say, “Give me a couple of minutes and it’ll pop back in,” that’s an example. He says that this kind of memory loss is “very common” as people get older.
Dementia is a broad term for a group of disorders that cause a loss of intellectual function that can be mild or serious. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Some “slowing” of the mind is a normal part of getting older, but doctors say that dementia symptoms are different and are signs of disease.
The National Institute on Aging says the following are signs that you or a loved one may have dementia and not just regular aging:
Repetition of the same question
Getting lost in a place you know well. Having a harder time keeping track of time, places, and people.
Not taking care of yourself, like eating badly, not bathing or showering, or acting in a dangerous way.
The agency says it’s normal to sometimes make a bad choice, forget to make a monthly payment or lose something. But making bad choices often, having trouble paying your bills, losing things often, and not being able to find them is not.
How to Handle Concerns About Dementia?
Those Who Have Signs of Dementia Should Talk to Their Doctor. the Doctor Will Ask When The Symptoms Started if They’re Getting Worse, and If They’re Getting in The Way of Daily Life. Experts at Fortune Say that A Doctor May Decide to Send a Patient for A Neuropsychological Test, Which Could Shed More Light on The Situation or Just Give a Record of How Well the Person Thinks on Average.
Schumann Says, “Everyone Makes a Mistake Once in A While” and Gives the Example of A Single Set of Lost Keys. But He Warns that Problems Like Not Being Able to Balance a Budget and Forgetting how To Dress and Take Care of Oneself Are Often Signs of Dementia. the Good News Is That Dementia Is Not Likely if There Are No Changes in Mood or Sleep.
Even Though the Idea of Being Told You Have Dementia Can Be Scary, Reuben Says that Many People Want to Find out As Soon as Possible. That’s Because of A Few Things. It Gives People the Chance to Get Their Lives in Order. and It Gives People with Early Dementia a Glimmer of Hope Because There “may Be Drugs on The Horizon” that Can Help Them. Sign up For Well Adjusted, Our Email with Simple Tips from The Fortune Well Team on How to Work Smarter and live better. Sign up right now.