By 2025, there are going to be an estimated one million people who have dementia in the UK. Based on information supplied by the Alzheimer’s Society, about 7.1% of over 65's were estimated to have dementia in 2015.
The total cost of Alzheimer's to the UK economy in 2015 is reported to be £26 billion. Living with dementia is challenging, not just for the patient but also for their friends and family, as watching your loved one change so much is emotionally draining.
The stress of this can be exacerbated when the early signs of dementia are missed. Early diagnosis can be very helpful to you and your loved one. People often become anxious when they notice potential early signs of dementia, so it's important to seek advice from a medical professional.
If you are diagnosed with dementia, seeking professional help can provide you with access to support and resources.
Finally, an early diagnosis gives you and your family more time to plan, so you can discuss your options and find the right solutions for you.
Here are ten early signs often associated with dementia that you or others may notice. For a diagnosis of dementia, which should be made by a medical professional, two or more of these signs must be present and affecting everyday life.
1. Memory Loss
Most dementia patients first notice a loss of ability to retain new information. They might remember events from years or decades ago but struggle with remembering details from the morning.
Another memory change might be forgetting where they left an item, why they entered a room or went to the shops, or what tasks they intended to do.
2. Choosing The Right Words
Another early sign often reported is a struggle to communicate verbally, for example, difficulties explaining something or expressing themselves. This often means conversations take longer and you might need to repeat what you are saying several times.
3. Changes In Mood
Dementia patients often experience a change in mood. Depression is common in early dementia. The main challenge of this symptom is that the patient often doesn’t notice the change, nor will they readily accept that they are different. This can cause arguments even though you have their best intentions at heart.
This is very common but often not recognised. A person with early dementia can lose interest in activities and hobbies. They might also fail to go out and socialise with friends and family. Their emotional state might also appear flat.
5. Difficulty Completing Normal Tasks
One subtle shift with dementia patients is that they can’t complete normal tasks easily. This can be as simple as being unable to record a television programme or work the microwave. The first signs can often be related to more complex tasks and sometimes family members notice changes when playing a game like Monopoly or cards.
Patients can also struggle to learn new things or routines.
Confusion is often a less recognised sign; the patient begins to confuse familiar faces and struggles to interact normally with people. Confusion can also be related to activities such as misplacing the television remote, phone or house keys.
Dementia patients struggle with following storylines in books, television, radio and in conversation. Though often it is the latter that is more apparent as they will ask you to clarify parts of your story.
8. Sense Of Direction
Those with dementia can become lost more easily as their memory about familiar places fades. This can mean that journeys they’ve taken hundreds of times before might become challenging and take far longer than usual.
They can also can become less able to follow directions. Patients often notice that they are having difficulties following directions and can become very anxious when they realise they’ve got lost.
This is a classic sign of dementia as changes in mood and their inability to hold memories lead to repetitive behaviour. For instance, a patient may make themselves a cup of tea several times or brush their teeth repeatedly.
Another thing they might do is repeat the same question in conversations. It is important in these circumstances that you don’t question them, but just repeat the answer.
10. Can’t Change
People with dementia are often anxious and frightened of the changes they are experiencing. That is why they often crave routine and don’t like to try new things. Difficulty adapting to new scenarios is a typical sign.
If you think you know someone with dementia and they have at least two of these symptoms, it is best to contact your local healthcare professional and encourage the family member to seek assessment. If you have had a recent diagnosis of dementia in the family and want to discuss plans for their future, whatever care you feel is suitable, please feel free to contact us at Home Instead.
We are happy to discuss the options open to you whether you are a client or not.