Recently our team at Repton Medical, all became Dementia friends. We attended an information session which gave us a deeper understanding of how people living with dementia feel and cope with day to day life. We learnt to see the person and not the disease. There is surplus information available based around dementia such as on the Alzheimer's Society website. We decided to put together a list from a number of sources of how to spot the early signs of dementia.
How can we spot the early signs of Dementia?
Dementia affects 1 in 20 people over the age of 65 and 1 in 5 over the age of 80. Yet not many people are aware of the signs and symptoms of dementia. It is important to remember that dementia is not a natural part of aging and anyone can be diagnosed at any age. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for up to 50-60% of diagnosed cases.
The most confusing fact of all is that Dementia itself is not actually a disease; it is in fact a cluster of symptoms caused by various other diseases of the brain. It can be caused by many things which have invoked a form of brain damage such as from injury or stroke, and other diseases such as Huntington’s.
The 10 signs or symptoms of dementia are:
1. Memory Loss –
Most commonly associated with Dementia although; if this is the only symptom that the patient has then it is quite possible that memory loss is due from other issues and not dementia. Dementia patients suffering from memory loss often find recalling recent events very difficult. You will find they often ask for the same information repeatedly and struggle to remember names, events/dates and recently learned information.
2. Difficulty with planning or problem solving –
Following a plan or working with numbers could become more difficult. Just keeping track of bills or even following a simple recipe could become a very hard task for the dementia patient and learning new things may also become increasingly more difficult to understand.
3. Confusion with dates, times or a place –
People with Alzheimer’s and dementia may often be confused as to what date it is, albeit the month, year or even decade. They can sometimes feel confused as to where they are and why they are there.
4. Issues with vision and understanding distances -
Issues with vision and seeing differences in colour contrasts is often a problem which is why many experts suggest using bright bold simple colours to mark different objects and spaces. The person may also have difficulty reading and judging a spatial distance which could lead to difficulties whilst driving.
5. Words: speaking and writing –
You may start to notice that the person has trouble following or joining conversation, they could quite often stop mid conversation and would struggle to carry on or would start to repeat what they was saying. Using the ‘correct’ words will become increasingly difficult as they start to call objects by other names such as calling a ‘watch’ a ‘hand-clock’
6. Changes in personality and mood –
Quite often a person with dementia may change in personality; this is often the case with people who tend to be quiet or reserved; as the condition causes a person to ‘lose’ inhibition making them more outgoing. Mood swings could possibly happen often.
7. A decrease in judgement or decision making –
This in affect is what causes dementia patients to be vulnerable; they may be more willing to give money to telemarketers, friends and family who are able to take advantage of them. There are many services that are available to combat this. A decrease in judgement could also affect the personal hygiene; less attention will be paid to personal grooming or they may become more reluctant to be helped whilst being washed.
8. Less interest or complete removal in hobbies, sports and routine activities
A person with dementia may feel less interested in hobbies, sports and anything social as they will find keeping active and concentrating with conversation and tasks a lot harder. Changes in their personality could also affect this. They may find that activities started later in life will be less interesting compared to activities they did or followed at a younger age.
9. Depression –
Depression often walks hand in hand with dementia, as the person decreases in health they could begin to feel confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. Especially as they become more dependant for day to day routines/ activities. Any change could make them feel out of their comfort zone, especially something that affects their daily routine.
10. Repeating tasks –
Symptoms such as memory loss and behavioural change may affect the daily tasks that the person with dementia undergoes. They may start to repeat tasks such as brushing teeth, taking medication, and shaving and could also start collecting items obsessively.
Keeping an eye out for any of these symptoms is easier said than done as sometimes our loved one could try to hide them from us. However some of these signs and symptoms can also come from ageing. Always ask a doctors advice if there is a serious concern. Make sure you read as much information as you can to understand Alzheimer’s and dementia as the research is rapidly evolving.