In 2015, a report by Alzheimer’s UK estimated that up to 850,000 people were living with dementia – by 2021, this figure is expected to have grown to 1 million and as much as 2 million by 2051. This all part of the ongoing ageing of the UK population.
More people living to old age means more people being likely to be diagnosed with a number of conditions such as dementia, which are associated with old age.
It can be hard to see a loved one struggling as they get older, and even harder to ask that tricky question, about whether they might have the condition. To help you, here are just some of the signs to keep an eye on, in case you’re worried about someone close to you.
Loss of memory
One of the most obvious aspects of someone suffering some form of dementia is usually some form of memory loss. Think of your memories like layers of sand on a beach, and dementia as a wave washing over it. The deeper and older the memories, the stronger they are.
Seniors living with dementia often begin to have trouble remembering more recent events, and fall back on some of their earlier memories, often leading to confusion when encountering family members or friends.
For example, it’s not uncommon for someone with dementia to confuse a child of theirs with a sibling or indeed one of their own parents. It’s purely due to them having difficulty in being able to retain memories in the more recent past, and underlines the importance of things like familiar faces, especially when receiving visitors or home care.
Inability to carry out routines
Another sign of dementia can be seen in a difficulty to complete even the most basic tasks as part of a daily routine. Imagine being asked to make a cup of tea, with a spoonful of sugar and a bit of milk. It might sound like an easy task, but when someone has dementia, loss of memory plays a role in preventing them from doing even the simplest of things.
In the mind of a person living with dementia, for example, they might struggle to remember what order everything is supposed to be added. Milk first, with a teabag, or just hot water and sugar, rather than the usual.
Issues like counting change or having trouble remembering items on a shopping list are another way of spotting dementia, as it can become trickier to make connections and remember the essentials of day-to-day life.
Difficulties with concentration
A sign of dementia can also be seen in an inability to follow conversations consistently, or problems in finding the right words to say. Basic conversations can seem slightly off-focus, and you might feel like someone is daydreaming or note quite processing what you’re telling them.
Storytelling can start to become muddled, as someone living with dementia might confuse people in a story, and misremember the flow of events.
In other cases, someone might simply recount a story about something that’s entirely fictional without realising it, having collected memories of lots of different things, before scrambling them all together into a false memory.
One of the more noticeable signs of dementia can be manifested in the form of mood swings. This might give a loved one a slightly different personality over time. Sometimes someone with dementia might start to notice they are struggling to remember things, making them slightly more ill-tempered if they feel like things aren’t quite as they should be, creating a vicious cycle.
These mood swings can include feelings of apathy, where a loved one might seem unusually distant or unable to emote as you expect them to. They might start to lose that much-needed enthusiasm to get on with their day, by washing, socialising with others or leaving the house.
As you can see, some of the recurring features of the early signs of dementia revolve around memory, and losing control of one’s self. Simple tasks like making tea, or having issues with holding a conversation are common in those living with the condition, but no two people with it are identical. It affects each person differently.
One thing that we believe, here at Home Instead Wandsworth, Lambeth & Dulwich, is the importance of one-to-one home care for the elderly, especially for those living with dementia. Issues with memory mean that it matters to have a friendly face visiting them, otherwise those feelings of confusion and muddled thinking become more entrenched.
Our Care Professionals are paired off with a single person, after we’ve made sure they are a suitable match. Not only do they carry out their job description – each CAREGiver of ours goes above and beyond, to make someone’s day, each day.
If you would like to learn more about what Home Instead can offer, give us a call on 020 8022 5240.