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How do you know if you are suffering from Dementia?

Dementia is the name given to a group of symptoms that make it difficult to carry out basic daily tasks.

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Dementia can cause changes in behaviour and personality and affects the language, memory and decision-making areas of the brain.

There are different causes of dementia. The most common being Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. See our article ‘Alzheimer’s, Vascular or Lewy Bodies? Dementia explained’.

Early symptoms of dementia

Although the early signs vary, common early symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory problems, particularly remembering recent events
  • Increasing confusion
  • Reduced concentration
  • Personality or behaviour changes
  • Apathy and withdrawal or depression
  • Loss of ability to do everyday tasks.

Sometimes people ignore these signs and may mistakenly assume that such behaviour is a normal part of the ageing process. Symptoms may also develop gradually and go unnoticed for a long time. This can be made worse because some people may refuse to act, even when they know something is wrong.

Ten warning signs of dementia

This checklist will highlight many of the common symptoms of dementia. If the person affected has several of these signs, consult a doctor for a complete assessment.

Memory loss.

It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments and remember them later. A person with dementia may forget things more often or not remember them at all.

Difficulty with tasks.

A person with dementia can get distracted and they may forget to serve part of a meal. Simple tasks that were part of a normal routine become difficult to finish.

Disorientation.

A person with dementia may have difficulty finding their way to a familiar place or feel confused about where they are, or think they are back in some past time of their life.

Language problems.

Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with dementia may forget simple words or substitute inappropriate words, making sentences difficult to understand which can be distressing for them. They also may become very repetitive and ask the same questions again and again.

Changes in abstract thinking.

Managing finances can be difficult for anyone, but a person with dementia may have trouble knowing what the numbers mean or what to do with them.

Poor judgement.

Many activities require good judgement. When this ability is affected by dementia, the person may have difficulty making appropriate decisions, such as what to wear in cold weather.

Dementia and poor spatial skills.

A person with dementia may have difficulty judging distance or direction when driving a car. Your sense of direction can also deteriorate.

Misplacing things.

Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with dementia may not know what the keys are for.

Mood, personality or behaviour changes.

Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with dementia can have rapid mood swings, for no apparent reason. They can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn.

Apathy.

It is normal to tire of some activities. Dementia may cause a person to lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. Even if this is with family or friends.

Remember that many conditions have symptoms like dementia, so it is important not to assume that someone has dementia just because some of the above symptoms are present. Strokes, depression, excessive long-term alcohol consumption, infections and many other disorders, can all cause dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions can be treated. Read more about Alzheimer’s & Dementia care. It is also increasingly apparent that we may be able to prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow down, or even reverse, the process of deterioration. See our article ‘Six steps to reduce your risk of getting dementia’

Next Steps

If you think that you or your relative are showing early signs of Dementia, you should consult your GP for an assessment. Your loved one may be resistant to the idea of visiting a doctor and they may be in denial that there is anything wrong. It may be a good idea to find another reason for a visit to the doctor. Perhaps suggest a check-up for a symptom that the person is willing to acknowledge, such as blood pressure, or suggest a review of a long-term condition or medication.
After considering the person’s symptoms and conducting various tests, the doctor may offer a preliminary diagnosis or refer the person to a Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service (CDAMS) clinic, neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist.

Mental Health Services for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire are provided by the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. In Berkshire, they are provided by the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Support includes both a community mental health team as well as a memory clinic. See our article ‘How much help can you get from the NHS?’

For anyone whose loved one is diagnosed with dementia, there are excellent resources available. See below for links to the Alzheimer’s Society introductory video and their very comprehensive guide on caring for someone with Dementia. There are also some excellent videos and leaflets available via Dementia UK.

Further information

Dementia

Mental Health support