Is it Dementia, PTSD or Age?

Author: Maine Veterans' Homes
Posted: February 10, 2017
Category: Dementia and Memory Care

Rita noticed changes in her husband several months ago. He wasn’t sleeping well, was forgetful and seemed somewhat disoriented during the day. This was likely causing his increased moodiness. But when he withdrew from the family and social activities he usually looked forward to, she became concerned.

She wondered, Is this late-onset post-traumatic stress from his years serving in combat? Or could this be dementia?

For veterans, memories of their wartime experiences can still be upsetting long after they served. Some veterans experience the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) soon after they serve and in varying degrees throughout life. For other veterans, military-related stress and mental health issues may appear for the first time later in life.

PTSD in Older Veterans: What You Should Know >>

Military-Related, Age-Related or Dementia?

There is no clear-cut answer on how to differentiate if your spouse’s physical and mental health concerns are military-related, age-related or dementia-related. However, there are certain signs you can watch for that may help you understand the changes in your spouse.

The one thing all three have in common is they should not be ignored. Seek the advice of your doctor. Talk to an expert in memory care and dementia. Look for support through a veteran’s advocacy group or organization.

The sooner your spouse gets support and help, the better their life can be.

9 Early Warning Signs of Dementia

Each individual may experience the signs and symptoms of dementia in different degrees, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. If you notice any of these, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as forgetting recently-learned information or asking for the same information over and over.
  2. Challenges in solving familiar problems or issues, such as calculating bills or following an instruction sheet.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as turning on the microwave.
  4. Forgetting where they are or how they got there.
  5. Difficulty following or joining conversations.
  6. Misplacing things and not able to retrace steps.
  7. Changes in judgement; often an increase in poor judgment, such as making an out-of-character statement or less attention to grooming.
  8. Withdrawing regularly from social opportunities.
  9. Changes in mood and personality, especially being confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious.

Those suffering from Alzheimer's disease are also more susceptible to financial hardships and crippling debt, since mental deterioration often causes them to forget to pay bills and struggle to manage household finances. As a caretaker, make sure to create a plan to safeguard against financial issues such as bad credit and identity theft.

9 Typical Age-Related Changes

As we age, many of us experience lapses in memory. The earlier you decipher if changes are normal aging, mental health issues or early dementia, the sooner you can to take the necessary steps for support and treatment if needed.

  1. Sometimes forgetting a name or appointment, but remembering it later.
  2. Not balancing the checkbook correctly, but still understanding how to do bills.
  3. Not being able to program the television remote, but still being able to turn on the TV.
  4. Getting confused about the day of the week, but figuring it out later.
  5. Sometimes having trouble finding the right words, but still being able to join a conversation.
  6. Misplacing things and then being able to retrace steps to find them.
  7. Making a bad decision every once in a while.
  8. Sometimes feeling weary of family, social obligations and hobbies.
  9. Having a specific way of doing things and becoming irritable when it changes.

9 Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to PTSD United, nearly 45 million people struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder today. It’s not only veterans, but many others who have been through a traumatic event in their lives. Just like dementia or any other mental or physical health concern, PTSD should be treated by professionals.

If your loved one is showing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, look for support from your local veteran’s organization or a veteran’s advocate, such as Maine Veterans’ Homes.

  1. Difficulty concentrating
  2. Easily startled and jumpy
  3. Flashbacks, nightmares and other sleep-related problems
  4. Emotionally numb or detached
  5. Guilt, shame or self-blame
  6. Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
  7. Depression or hopelessness
  8. Physical aches and pains, oftentimes headaches
  9. Easily irritated and angered

People of all ages can have post-traumatic stress disorder, and it is hard to predict exactly who will or won’t develop PTSD. Everyone is different, and there are a variety of factors that come into play.

No matter which signs, don’t ignore any concerns you or your children may be having. The sooner a memory, mental health or physical issue is treated and supported, the more fulfilling life you and your spouse can lead.

Learn More About Maine Veterans' Homes

At Maine Veterans’ Homes, compassion and respect are the cornerstones of our dementia care. We provide an environment where your loved one receives the best care, while you get the peace of mind you need to live your own life to the fullest.

As a veteran’s advocate, we invite you to learn more about our eligibility and benefits. Download a free packet today and get everything you need to understand our admission guidelines.

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