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Signs and symptoms of dementia

Dementia is a result of critical damage being caused to the brain over an extended period of time. In most cases, this damage is caused by different diseases and the symptoms that accompany them. These symptoms vary according to the part of the brain that is damaged and each person will experience the condition in a different way. Because of this, it can be difficult to identify the initial signs that indicate a person may be struggling with the condition.

Therefore, in order to diagnose as early as possible, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of dementia, some of which are listed below. Click the headers for more detailed information on each sign and symptom of dementia.

Trouble with memory loss can be an early symptom of dementia and often tend to involve difficulty with short-term recall. It is common that a person with dementia is able to remember an event that occurred years ago but will struggle to confirm what they had for breakfast that morning. The changes in memory are often subtle and can be hard to notice in the beginning, before becoming more frequent as time passes. Although they may only misremember trivial things such as where they left a particular item or why they entered a room, leaving a door unlocked or the oven on can cause more serious issues. This is an important aspect to consider as the symptoms of dementia progress over time.

Somebody who suffers from dementia may begin to struggle to keep up to pace in a conversation and forget what is being talked about. This is related to the slowly decreasing short-term recall affiliated with memory loss. Although the person may be coherent in what they are saying, as the conversation goes on they may lose their line of reasoning or forget what their original point was. A result of this is the person becoming prone to repetition in what they are saying, as they may not remember that they have already made a particular point. As a carer, it is important to try to facilitate the communication skills of somebody with dementia as much as possible. Occasional hints or recaps of what they are talking about during a conversation can help them to keep their thoughts on track and boost their self-esteem when communicating.

A common symptom of dementia is the person becoming confused when dealing with everyday tasks or their normal routine. This is because their memory, thinking and judgement may begin to falter, causing confusion over events that would usually be commonplace in their everyday life. These include occurrences such as struggling to remember faces, finding the right words and interacting with people normally. As well as confusion, these shortcomings can often lead to fear and frustration within the individual as they may not be able to understand why this is happening. In order to help a person with dementia as much as possible, it is important to offer any significant aid that may help them to remain stable or regain their bearings. For example, if they are struggling to recognise somebody, it may useful to recall an event that involves them both together. In doing so, their long-term memory will be triggered and they may be able to remember who the person is without recognising them physically.

A change is mood is common within people who suffer from dementia. This can occur in a range of different ways and can differ as time goes on. Although a friend or carer of somebody with dementia may notice this change in mood, it isn’t always easy for the person themselves to recognise it. It is important, as this stage, to gauge the person’s mood and ensure that they are receiving the support required. As well as a change in mood, it is also typical for somebody suffering from dementia to have a shift in personality. This is due to the person’s judgement changing due to the dementia. One typical example of this personality change seen in dementia is a shift from being shy to outgoing. Again, it is important to gauge these shifts and be aware of the mental state of the person with dementia.

A shift in a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks can be an early indication that they may have dementia. Although they will most likely still be able to complete straightforward tasks such as taking the bins out or washing clothes, more complicated tasks such as paying household bills, or completing a puzzle may cause them problems. In addition to this, they may also struggle to learn new skills or adapt to any changes in routine. As previously mentioned, this decline in ability can often be scary and frustrating for somebody struggling from dementia. Therefore, it is important for a carer to remain patient and offer any support that they feel will make the person comfortable and safe as these changes occur.

Apathy is another condition that is common in people suffering from dementia. This usually occurs in the early stages of dementia and may result in the person losing interest in the hobbies or activities that they usually enjoy. This is due the damage inflicted on the part of the brain that controls motivation, planning and sequencing of tasks. If this occurs, it is important to remember that the person with dementia is not consciously deciding to turn away from their interests and that this should not be inferred as them giving up. As a carer, it is helpful to prevent the person from becoming withdrawn by building up their confidence in themselves, which has been found to hinder rates of apathy.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of dementia please visit nhs.uk.

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