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Article by Sarah Hamilton-Walker | 11th August 2018

The Dementia Dilemma

With 850,000 people in the UK thought to be living with dementia, here’s how to spot the signs...

In the UK, there are currently 850,000 people thought to be living with dementia, and Alzheimer’s Society indicate that this number is estimated to rise to more than a million by 2025. So, if your mother keeps misplacing her glasses, or your father often repeats himself, should you be worried about dementia?

Spotting the possible warning signs in the early stages can be difficult as everybody gets a bit forgetful from time to time – so how do you know when memory loss is normal or a symptom? To help, the wellbeing experts at CABA and Dementia UK have come together to offer advice on how to spot the signs of dementia and what to do.

Dementia is not a single illness and as a result the symptoms someone exhibits can vary depending on the type of dementia that they have.

Memory problems

We all forget a name or a face once in a while, but being frequently forgetful is one of the most common signs of dementia, particularly when someone struggles to retain new information. Other memory problems may include: forgetting recent events; getting lost in previously familiar places; misplacing or losing things regularly; asking someone to repeat things over and over.

Communication

Whether spoken or written, communication can pose difficulties for those with dementia. People with dementia can often: repeat themselves or struggle finding the right words; experience difficulties having or joining in a conversation; forget what they’re saying in the middle of a sentence.

Concentration

People with dementia might have problems concentrating, including taking longer than usual to process information. Some people may also frequently feel restless and be unable to sit still for very long.

Problematic judgement

Dementia can cause problems with reasoning and the ability to make decisions, including dealing with financial matters. Forgetting to pay bills is one example, while others include spending large amounts of money on a whim, being easily persuaded to buy things that aren’t needed or giving money away.

Mood and personality

Changes in personality and behaviour may also be a sign of dementia, as can mood swings and depression. Things to look out for include: becoming aggressive, irritable, short-tempered or easily upset; becoming obsessive (this can include overeating or drinking too much); feelings of paranoia; feelings of fear or anxiety; becoming increasingly suspicious.

Encourage them to see a GP

If you feel someone you know is becoming more and more forgetful or is displaying some of the other signs associated with dementia, an important first step is to encourage them to see their GP to gain a diagnosis.

Seeing a GP will make sure that the person is given the appropriate advice, support and treatment that they need, and it may also diagnose other treatable conditions that may be causing their symptoms.

Only a GP will be able to diagnose the cause of these signs, and only a GP can refer the person for assessment, which is why it’s important to see a doctor.

However, the idea of visiting a GP for a dementia diagnosis can be a frightening experience and as a result some people may want to delay finding out.

To help encourage them to see their doctor, you could offer to go to their GP with them, as they may find it reassuring to have another person present. This may also help if the person has difficulties taking in and remembering new information.

• Visit www.caba.org.uk, www.alzheimers.org.uk or www.dementiauk.org

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