• Last modified 30 days ago (June 19, 2024)


Dementia isn't easy to spot

Staff writer

Everyone forgets such things as where they put something, repeats favorite stories, and feels confusion from time to time.

Whether these are signs of aging or the beginning of a more sinister problem can be difficult to know.

“It probably took six months to realize what was going on,” Marion resident Ruth Herbel said.

Her husband, Ron, has dementia.

Dementia is genetic, so family history may shed light on why someone is having symptoms.

“This really all started after COVID-19,” she said. “He did have COVID. I took him to the hospital to have that infusion.”

It wasn’t until 2021 she became aware something more sinister was afoot.

“It think that was because we were quarantined and didn’t go out and socialize,” she said. “After the lockdowns were over and we got out, that’s when I began noticing.”

She took Ron to his primary care physician a number of times. The physician didn’t say he could have dementia, but she took Ron to a neurologist and psychiatrist in Wichita. The neurologist ran tests and found that Ron’s blood vessels in his brain were small.

Ron’s coping skills have been damaged by his dementia, and stressful events take a big toll on him.

When their home was raided by police Aug. 11, he became agitated and walked through the house calling for Ruth.

Afterward, he paced for months.

But he didn’t remember the raid itself — at least not on a conscious level.

When Ruth gave an interview May 2 in Wichita about the raid, Ron suffered a panic attack.

Dementia robs its sufferer of short-term memory. Longstanding memories often are not erased.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, dementia is not a specific disease but is a general term for an impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions.

It interferes with doing everyday activities.

The most common form is Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is not a part of normal aging, but the strongest known factor is increasing age. Most people who develop dementia are 65 or older.

Symptoms vary widely, but people with dementia often have problems with:

  • Memory.
  • Attention.
  • Communication.
  • Reasoning, judgment, and problem solving.
  • Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision.

Signs that may point to dementia include:

  • Getting lost in a familiar neighborhood.
  • Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects.
  • Forgetting the name of a close family member or friend.
  • Forgetting old memories.
  • Not being able to complete tasks independently.

People whose parents or siblings have dementia are more likely to develop it.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking increase the risk.

Head injuries also can increase the risk, especially with severe or repeated head injuries.

Last modified June 19, 2024