FEB 2022: EARLY SIGNS OF DEMENTIA: WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW TO SPOT THEM

Dementia is a term for a group of symptoms that relates to a general decline in brain function. Although it can occasionally be present in people as young as 30 or 40, the most common age is over 65. It’s an illness that people rightly regard as very serious. However, spotting the symptoms and early signs of dementia can help your loved ones enjoy a better standard of living, and help them get the care they need. In some cases, catching this illness early can even slow its progression. Here’s a concise and straightforward list of what you need to be looking out for when spotting dementia symptoms.

Memory Loss

One of the most notorious indicators of dementia is memory loss. It’s important to state here that forgetfulness can happen to everyone now and then, and memory issues can arise in people simply as a result of old age - there’s no one definitive dementia symptom. However, if you notice that your elderly loved one is regularly finding it harder and harder to remember recently-acquired information, such as the name of a new person or details of a conversation they’ve just had, it might be time to take them to the doctors. Initially with dementia sufferers, memory loss will be short-term, but in the later stages it can progress to forgetting more entrenched information like birthdays, how to drive a car, or even relatives’ faces.

Personality Changes

One of the less well-known signs of dementia is personality changes. The nerve cell damage that dementia is caused by can alter areas of the brain that control personality. For instance, if the part that deals with impulse control is affected, the person suffering might become more reckless, rude, or impatient. Like memory loss, personality changes don’t always herald certain dementia - everyone’s personality is always changing from time to time - but it is always worth keeping tabs on changes becoming more apparent or volatile in a person you know well.

Mood Swings

An early dementia symptom is unexpected mood swings. This can be one of the hardest things to deal with so it’s vital you get help when you can. If a parent or loved one who is usually calm starts becoming surly or angry, it could be worth getting advice and help. Emotional distress can often come about because of other factors associated with dementia, like memory loss, disorientation, or pain. Like personality changes, mood swings can also occur because the part of the brain that controls emotion is being affected. Always remember that if these do become a problem, it’s ‘the illness speaking’ and not your loved one.

Repetition

Memory loss - one of the most important early signs of dementia - can lead to what’s known as ‘repetition’. For instance, you might notice that a loved one is repeating the same questions over and over again. The short-term memory loss means that the answer to the question they’ve asked has quickly been forgotten, so they feel they need to ask again. Alternatively, repetition can take a physical form, such as constantly rearranging clothes in a drawer. These types of actions - which also include tapping their foot, stroking a pet, or doing a jigsaw puzzle - can be a way of alleviating anxiety. Like many dementia symptoms, repetition is common in most old people - we’ve all heard our grandparents’ favourite stories! - but if this repetition seems to be more and more common, you should consider contacting care home staff or a medical professional.

Disorientation

One of the more distressing signs of dementia is disorientation. Occasionally losing keys or a phone happens to everyone, but if your loved one is getting lost in a place they are familiar with or going to sleep in the daytime, this could be a worrying symptom. Dementia’s damage to the brain’s nerve cells can affect spatial awareness which is why they might become confused in their own home.

Spotting these early signs of dementia can be vital in getting your loved one the help they need as soon as possible. Although many dementia symptoms are harmless enough, and often simply a sign of old age, it’s best to be vigilant and always pay attention to parents, guardians, and relatives' behaviour. The earlier dementia is caught, the better chance you have of keeping them as healthy as possible and increasing their quality of life.

Dementia is a term for a group of symptoms that relates to a general decline in brain function. Although it can occasionally be present in people as young as 30 or 40, the most common age is over 65. It’s an illness that people rightly regard as very serious. However, spotting the symptoms and early signs of dementia can help your loved ones enjoy a better standard of living, and help them get the care they need. In some cases, catching this illness early can even slow its progression. Here’s a concise and straightforward list of what you need to be looking out for when spotting dementia symptoms.

Memory Loss

One of the most notorious indicators of dementia is memory loss. It’s important to state here that forgetfulness can happen to everyone now and then, and memory issues can arise in people simply as a result of old age - there’s no one definitive dementia symptom. However, if you notice that your elderly loved one is regularly finding it harder and harder to remember recently-acquired information, such as the name of a new person or details of a conversation they’ve just had, it might be time to take them to the doctors. Initially with dementia sufferers, memory loss will be short-term, but in the later stages it can progress to forgetting more entrenched information like birthdays, how to drive a car, or even relatives’ faces.

Personality Changes

One of the less well-known signs of dementia is personality changes. The nerve cell damage that dementia is caused by can alter areas of the brain that control personality. For instance, if the part that deals with impulse control is affected, the person suffering might become more reckless, rude, or impatient. Like memory loss, personality changes don’t always herald certain dementia - everyone’s personality is always changing from time to time - but it is always worth keeping tabs on changes becoming more apparent or volatile in a person you know well.

Mood Swings

An early dementia symptom is unexpected mood swings. This can be one of the hardest things to deal with so it’s vital you get help when you can. If a parent or loved one who is usually calm starts becoming surly or angry, it could be worth getting advice and help. Emotional distress can often come about because of other factors associated with dementia, like memory loss, disorientation, or pain. Like personality changes, mood swings can also occur because the part of the brain that controls emotion is being affected. Always remember that if these do become a problem, it’s ‘the illness speaking’ and not your loved one.

Repetition

Memory loss - one of the most important early signs of dementia - can lead to what’s known as ‘repetition’. For instance, you might notice that a loved one is repeating the same questions over and over again. The short-term memory loss means that the answer to the question they’ve asked has quickly been forgotten, so they feel they need to ask again. Alternatively, repetition can take a physical form, such as constantly rearranging clothes in a drawer. These types of actions - which also include tapping their foot, stroking a pet, or doing a jigsaw puzzle - can be a way of alleviating anxiety. Like many dementia symptoms, repetition is common in most old people - we’ve all heard our grandparents’ favourite stories! - but if this repetition seems to be more and more common, you should consider contacting care home staff or a medical professional.

Disorientation

One of the more distressing signs of dementia is disorientation. Occasionally losing keys or a phone happens to everyone, but if your loved one is getting lost in a place they are familiar with or going to sleep in the daytime, this could be a worrying symptom. Dementia’s damage to the brain’s nerve cells can affect spatial awareness which is why they might become confused in their own home.

Spotting these early signs of dementia can be vital in getting your loved one the help they need as soon as possible. Although many dementia symptoms are harmless enough, and often simply a sign of old age, it’s best to be vigilant and always pay attention to parents, guardians, and relatives' behaviour. The earlier dementia is caught, the better chance you have of keeping them as healthy as possible and increasing their quality of life.