Dementia is one of the biggest health challenges of our time, with more than one million individuals set to be diagnosed to have the condition in the UK by 2025.
However, regardless of this high figure, there is as yet a tremendous gap in our comprehension of dementia – the symptoms and living with it.
The current year’s Dementia Action Week – which starts today – tries to bring issues to light of this and get individuals discussing dementia with their family and neighbors.
John Ramsay, the CEO and originator of Shift8, a social undertaking which is conveying Dutch dementia care development to the UK, distinguishes the five basic symptoms of dementia.
He said: “I was 12 when my father was diagnosed with early onset dementia and, looking back over that time, there were signs that something wasn’t quite right.
“The early signs of dementia can vary from person to person, and can be very subtle, making it hard to spot, but these are some of the early indicators that I noticed from my own experience of caring for dad.”
“At what point should you become worried about someone’s forgetfulness? A person’s ability to remember events or even birthdays varies person to person, however, it can become apparent when memory loss starts suddenly.
“For my father, it was when he started forgetting what had just happened and relied on us to tell him what to do next.
“You may start to notice a relative suddenly forgets about recent events but can recall memories from their younger years with complete accuracy.”
Change in movement
“Often overlooked, changes with movement can also be a symptom of dementia.
“Dementia can cause people to isolate themselves as they struggle in social situations and as a result their movement can become stilted and unpredictable.
“My dad used to always enjoy walking, but he started to go for very prolonged walks down our local street really late in the evening or at the crack of dawn, and it became draining for the whole family to look out for him and make sure he was safe.”
“This symptom is hard to recongnise when you don’t see someone regularly but holding on to old items or stockpiling the same thing can suggest early signs of dementia.
“The reason being that they will often forget they have already bought something, so will simply go out and buy the exact same thing.
“My dad ended up with dozens of copies of the house keys, as he kept making copies of them, thinking he had lost them.”
“Mood swings is one of the harder symptoms to come to terms with. Those living with dementia struggle to process certain emotions, as they will often forget the memory that triggered the emotion.
“For most of us, if we have a bad journey into work, we’d be annoyed, but would understand where that annoyance had come from. For someone with dementia, that loop isn’t closed, and they are left with that nagging annoyance all day without an idea of why.
“As hard as it might be, it is important to try and avoid arguing and remind yourself that their anger stems from a frustration they cannot control.”
Loss of subtleties of language
“A final symptom that is associated with dementia is a change in the way a person communicates. This is linked to the change in memory, as those with dementia struggle to communicate effectively, getting lost in conversations or struggling to recall the right words when discussing an idea.
“Changes to relatives or loved ones can be very slow interspersed with the occasional dramatic event. It’s human nature to get used to someone’s behavior, however major changes in their actions can remind you of how far the journey has gone.
“All the symptoms above will show themselves subtly at first and can often be missed.”
If you think one of your family members is showing these signs of dementia, or others listed by the NHS, you should encourage them to see a GP as soon as possible.