4 December 2014
Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia symptoms can develop in a range of ways and at different speeds from person to person; but spotting the signs early allows certain types of dementia to be treated or reversed.
At Hallmark we recognise the importance of early diagnosis, and that the more people understand about dementia, the more that can be done to improve the daily life of those living with dementia, and preserve the sense of control.
What is Dementia?
Dementia essentially is a collection of symptoms resulting from disease or trauma to the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, but other types include mixed and vascular dementia. Diagnosis is possible through advanced brain imaging, diagnostic testing and clinical examinations.
Recognising the Signs
As we age we notice no end of physical changes in our bodies, and memory changes are just the same. Beyond the age of 40 many people will experience memory loss as the brain shrinks and mental speeds slow, but just like the physical changes our body sees, changes to our working memory should be gradual and mild. It is when these changes are rapid and severe they can impact daily living.
You may notice that a person living with dementia repeatedly asks the same questions, they may also complain of memory loss only when asked, and will be unable to recall specific instances. Their ability to recall instances may be significantly slower and they may require greater hints to jog the memory.
A person living with dementia may experience navigation problems, which is actually linked to memory loss. For example, they may get lost in familiar places, not be able to find their way home, and even forget how they got to where they are. Some people living with dementia may also confuse day and night, getting up at the wrong time or forgetting to eat at normal meal times.
Language Skills and Communication
We all struggle to recall words from time to time, but someone living with dementia can often forget simple words and substitute them with unusual words. They may also have difficulties following a conversations, which can lead to them living a more passive life. It’s therefore important to include people living with dementia in conversation, staying calm and offering encouragement if they need time to remember a word or phrase they are trying to express.
Motor Skills and Difficulty Performing Tasks
Everyday tasks can become challenging for people living with dementia, whether it’s getting dressed or the steps to take in preparing a meal. Motor skills may too begin to decline.
Mood Swings and Inappropriate Behaviour
Becoming confused, irritable, suspicious or fearful are all common sign of dementia. A person’s mood can switch rapidly and they may also become depressed, feel anxious, or become upset easily for no apparent reason. Alternatively, people living with dementia may show less emotion than usual previously.
Impaired Judgement and Loss of Initiative
A person living with dementia may sleep more than usual, sit in front of the television for long hours, and lose all interest in previous hobbies. They may no long participate in social activities and may act inappropriately in social situations.
Unusual judgement may also extend to misplacing things and putting objects in unusual places; for example putting their wallet or purse in the fridge, and even accusing others of theft. Other early signs of dementia are a decline in decision making, for example giving away large sums of money; and losing interest in daily personal grooming.
Reporting the Signs
If you suspect that a friend or family member is showing signs of dementia, or even you yourself, the best thing you can do is visit a Doctor as soon as possible. Keeping a record of symptoms by writing a dated list is ideal, and talking to other people – friends and family to record their observations too will really help. Scheduling regular follow up appointments with the Doctor is a good idea too.
Dementia can impact daily living, independence, and relationships, but you can take charge of dementia by learning all you can about the symptoms and what to expect. This will enable you to take steps in planning and making adjustmentsto prolong independence so as that you can continue to live as full a life as possible.
For more information head to the Dementia Friends Website, or to support people living with dementia why not talk to the Dementia Action Alliance for ways to get involved.