It's no secret: When you enter menopause, you'll also have to deal with brain fog, forgetting things, and some changes in mood and ability to focus. These changes are perfectly normal since the hormones in your body are undergoing a pretty big change from their premenopausal years.
This is usually not a cause for concern. That is, until those signs start to be much more severe. This was the case with Judy Prentice, who confused the symptoms of dementia early in menopause.
Here is her story and what all women can learn from her situation.
Dementia symptoms mistaken for menopause
Judy Prentice's story
At the age of 51, Judy Prentice found herself once again walking out of a dressing room at a store while shopping with her husband wearing her dress backwards.
In recent years, Judy, a city hall clerk and mother of two, already did a lot of small and distracted things: she typed numbers incorrectly, misplaced things, and scraped cars in parking lots even though there was plenty of space to park.
At first, he attributed it to the distraction that often accompanies the transition to menopause, and didn't think much more about it - even his doctor didn't think it was somthing to worry about.
however, Judy was beginning to worry as her condition worsened. She finally confided to her husband Frank at the beginning of the new year that she was struggling at work even with simple tasks like counting and writing.
They went to their doctor, who ran some basic tests for dementia symptoms, and they all came back positive. She was referred to a neurologist for further testing, and the following month she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
Judy had to retire, and her husband had to take care of most of the household duties. Despite her husband leaving detailed instructions on how to use the oven and what tasks to do for the day, Judy struggles fearfully to make herself more than just a sandwich and to complete a task before forgetting what she's doing.
How to differentiate menopause from dementia
Brain fog and mild forgetfulness are normal signs of menopause; however, they can also indicate a more serious problem and can be a sign of the early stages of dementia.
Knowing how to tell the difference is crucial to getting the right treatments for both conditions.
Signs of menopause
There are several signs that most people know about and associate with the onset of menopause, including missed, irregular, or completely non-existent periods, hot flashes, and night sweats.
However, there are other symptoms that affect the brain and your cognitive ability, as well as your mood, including:
· Sleeping problems
· Feeling moody, depressed, or anxious for long periods of time
· Increased forgetfulness and loss of things
In general, these are nothing to worry about and are perfectly normal as your body is going through quite a major transition.
However, if mood swings, insomnia, and mental confusion start to have a major impact on you and your ability to function effectively, some alarms should be triggered.
Signs of dementia precocious
Diagnosing early-onset dementia and Alzheimer's can be difficult because it is not normally expected or considered for people under 65.
Actually, the Alzheimer's Association of America estimates that between 220,000 and 640,000 Americans are affected by Alzheimer's and early dementia, although many are undiagnosed.
Signs of dementia that can be mistaken for menopause
Disruptive memory loss
Forgetting recently learned information and having to continually ask the same questions, forgetting important dates, having to rely more and more on notes, phone reminders, and friends and family to remember things you used to remember on your own.
Difficulty planning, problem solving, and following directions
If you find yourself struggling to complete tasks that you used to have no problems with, especially those with numbers, that could be a red flag.
Things like family recipes, keeping track of bills or expenses, and other common tasks around home and work can take much longer and with greater inaccuracy.
Even things like driving to a place where you go frequently or remembering the rules of your favorite card game can turn into a fight.
Wasting time or place
People suffering from various stages of dementia and Alzheimer's can forget how they got somewhere, they can forget a date or the season, and often lose track of time. Struggling to understand things that are not happening in the immediate present is a strong sign of dementia.
Decreased visual and spatial reasoning
Vision problems can often accompany other signs of the onset of dementia. Difficulty reading or judging distances and space is what is most commonly observed, making everyday tasks like driving a struggle.
Difficulty with words and speech
Going beyond the simple problem of writing or struggling to find the correct word, people experiencing early dementia may have trouble joining or following conversations, stopping in the middle of a conversation, and not knowing how to continue, repeat themselves, and struggle with vocabulary and the correct names of things.
They often lose things
Every once in a while, we all put things away only to forget where we put them. People with dementia symptoms, however, do so quite frequently and often set the objects in question in very unusual places, such as putting their purse in the fridge.
To make matters worse, they lack the ability to go back to remember and find what they have lost.
Changes in mood, personality, and activities
Although people with menopause may experience mood swings due to their hormonal changes, people with dementia will experience much more than that: confusion, anxiety, suspicion, depression, and increased fear or worry.
They get upset easily and often withdraw from the things they used to love, including hobbies, sports teams, projects at work, even just hanging out with family and friends.
Any situation where they find themselves somewhere unfamiliar or outside their comfort zone will cause great amounts of fear and anxiety.
As you can see, there are some pretty significant differences between the symptoms of menopause and the warning signs of dementia. Unfortunately, in the early stages, these signs can be quite subtle and misinterpreted by other conditions.
Fortunately, there are some tests you can do at home to help determine whether or not your symptoms are a sign of something more serious than menopause or regular aging.
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