Senility

The state of being senile, especially the weakness or mental infirmity of old age

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What is Senility?

The most basic definition of senile is "relating to, exhibiting, or characteristic of, old age".

However, the use of the word senile is more commonly associated with a decline in mental abilities such as memory loss or confusion as people age.

More about the Word Senile

The word senile loosely references the loss of cognitive abilities or the inability to think clearly. Although still occasionally used, this term has lost its popularity, partly because it has a negative, disrespectful tone, as in, "The old man is senile."

Senile was used more commonly in the past, especially when memory loss and confusion were thought of by some as a normal consequence of getting older. The view was that the body and the mind both could be expected to decline together as someone aged, and that poor mental functioning was just a normal part of aging. An individual was often described as having "senile dementia" or "senile Alzheimer's," meaning that the disease developed in older age.

Additional, senile is sometimes used to describe the plaques that build up in the brain as Alzheimer's disease progresses.

Science now understands that significant memory loss, disorientation and confusion are NOT normal parts of aging but rather are symptoms of a neurocognitive disorder such as Alzheimer's, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, or Lewy body dementia.

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10 Early Symptoms of Senility

Subtle short-term memory changes

Trouble with memory can be an early symptom of dementia. The changes are often subtle and tend to involve short-term memory. An older person may be able to remember events that took place years ago but can’t remember what they had for breakfast.

Other symptoms of changes in short-term memory include forgetting where they left an item, struggling to remember why they entered a particular room, or forgetting what they were supposed to do on any given day.

Difficulty finding the right words

Another early symptom of dementia is struggling to communicate thoughts. A person with dementia may have difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be difficult, and it may take longer than usual to conclude.

Changes in mood

A change in mood is also common with dementia. If you have dementia, it isn’t always easy to recognize this in yourself, but you may notice this change in someone else. Depression, for instance, is typical of early dementia.

Along with mood changes, you might also see a shift in personality. One typical type of personality change seen with dementia is a shift from being shy to outgoing. This is because the condition often affects judgment.

Apathy

Apathy, or listlessness, commonly occurs in early dementia. A person with symptoms could lose interest in hobbies or activities. They may not want to go out anymore or do anything fun. They may lose interest in spending time with friends and family, and they may seem emotionally flat.

Difficulty completing normal tasks

A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks may indicate that someone has early dementia. This usually starts with difficulty doing more complex tasks like balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules.

Along with the struggle to complete familiar tasks, they may struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.

Confusion

Someone in the early stages of dementia may often become confused. When memory, thinking, or judgment lapses, confusion may arise as they can no longer remember faces, find the right words, or interact with people normally.

Confusion can occur for a number of reasons and apply to different situations. For example, they may misplace their car keys, forget what comes next in the day, or have difficulty remembering someone they’ve met before.

Difficulty following storylines

Difficulty following storylines may occur due to early dementia. This is a classic early symptom.

Just as finding and using the right words becomes difficult, people with dementia sometimes forget the meanings of words they hear or struggle to follow along with conversations or TV programs.

A failing sense of direction

The sense of direction and spatial orientation commonly starts to deteriorate with the onset of dementia. This can mean not recognizing once-familiar landmarks and forgetting regularly used directions. It also becomes more difficult to follow a series of directions and step-by-step instructions.

Being repetitive

Repetition is common in dementia because of memory loss and general behavioral changes. The person may repeat daily tasks, such as shaving, or they may collect items obsessively.

They also may repeat the same questions in a conversation after they’ve been answered.

Struggling to adapt to change

For someone in the early stages of dementia, the experience can cause fear. Suddenly, they can’t remember people they know or follow what others are saying. They can’t remember why they went to the store, and they get lost on the way home.

Because of this, they might crave routine and be afraid to try new experiences. Difficulty adapting to change is also a typical symptom of early dementia.


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