Dementia is the name for a range of conditions that cause damage to the brain. One of the most common types of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. The damage caused by dementia can cause memory loss, difficulty planning or solving problems, difficulty doing familiar tasks, being confused about time or place, challenges understanding visual information, problems speaking or writing, misplacing things and poor judgement or decision-making. Studies have also suggested an early sign of the condition may appear in a person’s behaviour.
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Dementia is a result of physical changes in the brain and these can affect the person’s memory and mood.
Sometimes, a person’s behaviour can be related to these changes, but other times, behaviour may be triggered by changes in the person’s environment, health or medication.
There are many reasons why a person’s behaviour may change.
Understanding the cause will help a person to decide which strategies may be helpful.
But an unusual sign of dementia lies in a person’s behaviour.
Some people with dementia lose their sense of social norms. Shoplifting; breaking into someone’s house, inappropriate interpersonal behaviours, such as sexual comments or actions; and even criminal behaviour make the list of surprising dementia symptoms.
On many occasions, this could result in trouble with the law. Other lesser known symptoms of dementia include failing to pick up on sarcasm, falling more frequent, staring with a reduced age and trouble reading, eating nonfood objects and rancid foods, not understanding what objects are used for, inappropriate behaviour and loss of empathy, an increase in compulsive, ritualistic behaviour, having a hard time managing money and difficulty forming the words to speak.
What studies say
In a study with the US National Library of Medicine Nationals Institutes of Health and published in the journal JAMA Neurology, criminal behaviour in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease was investigated.
The study noted: “Neurodegenerative diseases can cause dysfunction of neural structures involved in judgement, executive function, emotional processing, sexual behaviour, violence and self-awareness.
“Such dysfunctions can lead to antisocial and criminal behaviour.”
The objective of the study was to investigate the frequency and type of criminal behaviour among patients with a diagnosed dementing disorder.
The study concluded that criminal behaviour is more common in patients with dementia and is an early manifestation of the disorder.
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How to diagnose the condition?
The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland said: “There is no one test used to diagnose a type of dementia.
“Rather, the diagnosis involves a range of assessments and tests and this can mean that confirming a diagnosis can take time, particularly in the early stages.
“A diagnosis of dementia usually begins with a General Practitioner.
“It can be helpful to make a note of the changes causing concern before your visit to help you to talk to the GP about them.
“Perhaps keep a diary to help you to do this.”
What the experts say
Dr Soumit Singhai, leading consultant physician and geriatrician said: “Our brains require mental exercise to improve and maintain cognitive health by boosting blood flow to the area.
“Essentially, by incorporating brain training into your daily routine, can decrease your brain age whilst also helping reduce the risk of cognitive conditions such as dementia.
“What’s more, leading a brain healthy lifestyle can prevent symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow down, or even reverse the process of deterioration.”
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