Social isolation is linked to an increased risk of dementia; loneliness is associated with poorer executive function, such as a group of cognitive processes such as decision-making, planning, cognitive flexibility, and control of attention—and changes in the brain that indicate vulnerability to related dementias.
Dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. However, dementia is caused by many diseases or injuries that directly and indirectly damage the brain.
What causes dementia?
Dementia is caused by damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain. Depending on the damaged area of the brain, dementia can affect people differently and cause different symptoms. Dementias are often grouped by what they have in common, such as the protein or proteins deposited in the brain or the part of the brain that’s affected. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common group; other groups include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia.
However, dementia affects each person differently, depending upon the underlying causes, other health conditions, and cognitive functioning before becoming ill. Most symptoms worsen over time, while others might disappear or only occur in the later stages of dementia.
What are the symptoms of dementia?
Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause; early signs and symptoms are:
- Forgetting things or recent events.
- Losing or misplacing things.
- Getting lost when walking or driving.
- Being confused, even in familiar places.
- Losing track of time.
- Difficulties solving problems or making decisions.
- Problems following conversations or trouble finding words.
- Difficulties performing familiar tasks.
- Misjudging distances to objects visually.
Typical changes in mood and behaviour include:
- Feeling anxious, sad, or angry about memory loss.
- Personality changes.
- Inappropriate behaviour.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities.
- Being less interested in other people’s emotions.
Dementia patients should be socially active or use cell phones and other technology to prevent social isolation. However, there are different ways to manage dementia among older adults.
How to manage symptoms of dementia?
- Stay physically active.
- Eat healthily.
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Get regular check-ups with your doctor.
- Write down everyday tasks and appointments to help you remember important things.
- Keep up your hobbies and do things that you enjoy.
- Try new ways to keep your mind active.
- Spend time with friends and family and engage in community life.
Social engagement can improve the quality of life and slow the progression of dementia.
What are the tips to stay connected?
- Find an activity you enjoy, restart an old hobby, or take a class to learn something new. You might have fun and meet people with similar interests.
- Schedule time each day to stay in touch with family, friends, and neighbours in person, by email, social media, voice call, or text.
- Consider adopting a pet if you can care for them. Animals can be a source of comfort and may also lower stress and blood pressure.
- Check out resources and programs at local social service agencies, community and senior centres, and public libraries.
When to consult a doctor?
Social isolation is a serious problem with older adults; it can impact their emotional, mental, and even physical health. Consult an Intercare doctor if you have memory problems or other dementia symptoms. Some treatable medical conditions can cause dementia symptoms, so it’s essential to determine the cause.