12 March 2020
Recognising The Early Signs of Dementia
It’s very common for people to notice that an elderly friend or relative is having memory problems or memory loss, and assume that dementia is the cause. However, this isn’t always the case.
While memory loss can be an early symptom of dementia, a person needs to demonstrate at least two signs of impairment that prevent them from being able to manage their daily life to be diagnosed with dementia.
If you think that a friend or loved one may be in the early stages of dementia, find out more about early symptoms that may allow you to help them receive a diagnosis as early as possible below.
Trouble finding the right word
One of the more subtle early signs of dementia is the inability to find the right word when talking. This can be shown through the person either struggling to find the right word, or using an incorrect word and not noticing. Conversations with people in the early stages of dementia can therefore take a little bit longer than usual.
Change of mood
Another common symptom among people living with dementia is mood swings or changes to their personality. While they may not be able to recognise this change themselves, it is usually fairly easy to spot from the perspective of an outsider. Often, this change can be demonstrated in withdrawal from work or social activities, a shift from being shy to being outgoing (or vice versa) or even signs of depression.
Difficulty completing daily tasks
A common early symptom among people with dementia is losing the ability to complete familiar tasks, such as managing money or preparing meals. This difficulty often starts with more complex activities, but can lead to difficulties in completing simple tasks such as making a cup of tea.
Getting lost more easily
A person with dementia can exhibit difficulties with spatial awareness and directions, which sometimes leads to them being unable to recognise landmarks and becoming lost in areas that were once familiar to them. This symptom can also manifest in the person losing their ability to judge distances, which can sometimes result in them trying to reach a destination using an inappropriate method (e.g. trying to walk to a friend’s house who lives in the next town).
Short term memory loss
A person in the early stages of dementia is likely to demonstrate very subtle short term memory loss issues. This most commonly means that, while they are able to recall details from years ago, a person may not be able to remember things that have happened recently.
This is most often demonstrated by issues such as losing things, leaving things in odd places, forgetting why they have come into a room, forgetting what they did the day before and forgetting to eat.
One of the more obvious signs of short term memory loss can be seen through repetition. Due to the loss of short term memory, a person who is in the early stages of dementia often can’t remember recent conversations.
This often means that they can repeat the same story, or ask questions that have already been answered.
Another sign of short term memory loss can come in the shape of confusion. This can mean that a person struggles to remember faces, names or confuses this information. This is likely to manifest in the person having no memory of someone they have only met recently, or mistaking one friend or family member for another.
However, other signs can include not knowing what day it is, what the time is, where they are etc.
Getting a diagnosis
If you recognise two or more of the above symptoms in your friend or loved one, and these symptoms are not improving, you should talk to a doctor as soon as you’re able to. A doctor is likely to refer you to a neurologist, who will be better equipped to determine whether the symptoms are being caused by dementia or another cognitive issue.
Dementia is much more common among the over 65s, but can affect anyone from around the age of 30, so if you see any of the symptoms above in a loved one of any age, it’s worth talking to a doctor. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the more likely it is that the progression of the disease can be managed and your friend or loved one will be able to live independently for as long as possible.
Remember that there are several different types of dementia, or reasons for dementia to take hold, such as:
- Vascular dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Dementia with lewy bodies
- Damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease
If you would like to know more about how you can support your friend or loved one, or for more information about types of dementia, please refer to our guide to dementia, which contains useful information about what to expect and how to understand dementia.
Moving into a care home
Unfortunately, dementia can progress to a loss of independence and ability to cope that means that moving into a care home can become a necessity. However, we recognise that moving a friend or loved one into a care home can be an emotional process that you need to be confident is right for them.
We know that by building compassionate, trusting relationships and by knowing the individuals’ biography, personality and life journey, we can help people (and their families and friends who share the journey) to live enjoyable, stimulating and fulfilling lives.
If you have a friend or a loved one who may need full time dementia care, or just a short stay in a care home, you may also wish to get in touch with us to discuss the options that are open to you.
Living with dementia can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. With a little bit of helpful information and the right level of care at the right time, people living with the condition can still achieve a great quality of life.
If you would like to know more about the dementia care that Hallmark Care Homes is able to offer, we recommend that you check our “Dementia Care” page for more information or call your nearest care home.