Guides to care

The early signs of dementia

As we age, it becomes quite common for the memory to fail now and again. For example, we might forget what we wanted to say or which words to use, or go into a room and forget what we went in there for. These things happen to younger and older people sometimes. When you are with someone continuously, it is easy not to notice any difference in their behaviour or to put any changes down to normal age-related memory loss.

But when someone seems to be having difficulty following a conversation, or they forget what they have done or where they have been just a few hours or days previously, that’s when those nearest and dearest, or those caring for that person, may start to wonder if these are signs of dementia.

The early signs of dementia The Mayfield Care Home

Dementia – An Increasing Risk?

The NHS has revealed at there are over 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia. 1 in 14 over 65s are living with the condition, and it affects 1 out of 6 over 80-year- olds. It is thought that there are increasing numbers of people living with dementia are people live for longer. By 2025, it has been estimated that there will be more than a million people with dementia within the UK.

Our Guide to the Early Signs of Dementia

In the initial stages of any dementia-like illness, those caring for someone with worrying behavioural changes must get help as soon as possible. That means finding out about early signs of cognitive decline, which can help persuade them to seek assistance in getting a professional diagnosis. It is crucial to establish whether dementia is the issue or whether a treatable condition such as urinary infection, depression or nutritional or medication disorder is causing issues. All of these can commonly cause symptoms similar to dementia.

Some of the more common early signs to watch out for include:

  • Memory problems which appear to be increasing
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Difficulty doing everyday tasks
  • Difficulty in communication
  • Confusion
  • Loss of confidence and fear of getting lost or being alone

Memory Problems

Memory loss can manifest itself in very subtle ways, including forgetting where something was left or forgetting why a person entered a room. Other symptoms include forgetting whether they have eaten, forgetting what happened an hour ago, or asking the same questions repeatedly. Another sign is not recognising familiar faces or mistaking someone they’ve known for decades for someone else.

Mood and Behaviour Changes

A person exhibiting early signs of dementia can become withdrawn and worried about going out alone when they may have been confident and outgoing previously. They may stop doing the things they have previously enjoyed, such as hobbies. They may start to leave things in odd places, like the TV remote control in the fridge or laundry in the oven, for instance. These changes will not be noticeable to the person themselves but will become evident to carers and loved ones over time.

Difficulties in Communication

Communication problems could manifest as struggling to follow or understand a conversation or find words. A person could appear vague or unresponsive, nodding rather than engaging. In some cases, the voice may seem weaker and less clear. In a situation where English is not their first language, they could revert back to speaking in their mother tongue.

Loss of Daily Skills

As their dementia progresses, you may notice someone living with the condition doing less of their usual daily tasks. For instance, the garden may get neglected, the house may not be cleaned as well or at all, or they may forget how to prepare or cook a meal. Ultimately this could develop into a more severe personal neglect where they forget to wash or forget how to dress properly.

Getting a Diagnosis

In some cases, dementia can lead to such a loss of independence that moving into professional care is the best option.
It’s important that you persuade your loved one to get a diagnosis as soon as possible if you are worried that dementia may be an issue or whether it may be something treatable. This means contacting the person’s GP, who can refer them for tests and treatment where necessary or signpost them to the appropriate help.

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