How to spot the signs of dementia

There are currently 800,000 people in the UK with dementia, and by 2021 that figure will have risen to over a million. The condition can affect anyone, with 17,000 young people in the UK currently diagnosed, but it mainly affects the elderly. As care workers it’s our duty to understand the signs and symptoms of dementia so that we can offer the best possible assistance to the elderly people in our care.

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for around 60-80% of all dementia cases, with vascular dementia after a stroke being the second most common cause.  If you’re worried about a loved one, here are the key signs that could indicate they have the Alzheimer’s form of dementia…

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life: This is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s, particularly the loss of recently learned information. Also look out for the person asking for the same information over and over, and an increasing reliance on memory aids and the assistance of others with tasks they could previously do independently.
  • Difficulty with planning and problem solving: People with early stage dementia may begin to have trouble following a once-familiar recipe, or keeping on top of their monthly bills. If they make occasional errors without any other symptoms though it could just down to old age.
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks: Some daily tasks are so familiar that most of us don’t have to think about what we’re doing. For example making a cup of tea, or getting dressed in the morning. People with dementia may forget the order in which each part of the task should be performed.
  • Problems with language: Most of us have occasions where we misplace a word, but a person with dementia will forget simple words, and may substitute them with unusual words, rendering their speech difficult to understand.
  • Disorientation in place and time: A person with dementia may become lost in a familiar place, such as the area that they live in. They may also arrive somewhere and forget how they got there, and can sometimes confuse day with night.
  • Decreased judgement: Someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may experience a lack of judgement. For example, they might dress inappropriately, i.e. too many layers on a warm day and too few on a cold day, or hand over their money and details to a dodgy doorstep caller. They may also experience a decrease in judgement of distance and spatial awareness.
  • Misplacing items: We all put things down and forget where we left them from time to time, but a person with dementia may put items in strange places. For example, purse in the fridge. They may then begin to accuse others of stealing their purse as they don’t remember putting it in the fridge and they believe it to be lost.
  • Changes in behaviour and personality: Someone suffering from dementia may experience rapid mood swings for no apparent reason. They’ll also show less emotion that they previously did for things, for example not crying at something that would have previously upset them. They may become suspicious, irritable, apathetic, depressed, and anxious too.

If you notice a loved one displaying any of these symptoms consistently over a period of time it’s important to seek advice from a doctor so that early diagnosis can be achieved and the person can get the correct ongoing care.