Dementia is an umbrella term for a large number of conditions that gradually impair brain function. In 2021, there are an estimated 472,000 Australians living with dementia.
Whether you’re concerned about yourself or someone you care about, knowing the warning signs of dementia can help you get a diagnosis sooner. This Dementia Action Week, we share some of the most prevalent dementia warning signs.
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
It’s common to occasionally forget appointments, names of colleagues, or a relative’s phone number, only to remember them later. A person with dementia, on the other hand, may forget things more frequently or have trouble retaining new knowledge.
Forgetting key dates or events, repeatedly asking the same questions, requiring family members to provide repetitive reminders, or increasingly relying on memory aids such as post-it notes and mobile notifications, are considered signs of disruptive memory loss.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
We have all, at some point, been so preoccupied with our thoughts that we have forgotten to serve a meal or worn odd socks. A person living with dementia, on the other hand, may have difficulty completing tasks that have long been familiar to them, such as getting dressed or playing a favourite card game.
3. Problems with language
Do you or someone you know have a habit of forgetting words or replacing words that don’t make sense in a conversation? Finding the correct word to communicate what you want to say can be difficult for anyone. However, a person living with dementia may forget simple words or replace phrases, making it difficult to grasp what they are saying. They may come to a halt in the middle of a conversation, unsure how to proceed, or they may repeat themselves. They may lack language, have difficulty naming a known thing, or use the incorrect word (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).
4. Disorientation in time and space
A typical age-related change can be getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later. Dementia, on the other hand, can cause people to lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They may lose track of where they are or how they arrived at a location.
5. Impaired judgement
People may make questionable judgments from time to time, such as delaying seeing a doctor when they are ill. A person with dementia, on the other hand, may experience changes in judgement or decision-making, such as failing to recognise a medical concern that requires attention, making multiple unnecessary purchases, paying less attention to grooming, or overdressing on a hot day.
6. Problems with abstract thinking
From time to time, people may struggle with tasks that require abstract thinking, such as using a calculator or keeping up with monthly bills. Someone living with dementia, on the other hand, may struggle with such tasks due to a loss of understanding of what numbers are and how they are used. They might start to use letters and shapes in place of numbers, or if they use numbers, they might think that 2 + 2 = 10.
7. Misplacing things
Is it possible that you or someone you know is putting things in places they shouldn’t be? A wallet or keys can be misplaced by anyone at any time. A person with dementia, on the other hand, may place items in inconvenient places. For example, a wristwatch in the sugar bowl or an iron in the freezer. They may misplace items and be unable to retrace their steps to locate them. As the disease progresses, he or she may accuse others of stealing.
8. Changes in behaviour
Are you, or someone you know, experiencing drastic mood swings? From time to time, anyone can feel sad or moody. A person living with dementia, on the other hand, may experience mood swings that range from calm to angry for no apparent reason.
9. Changes in personality
Over time, people’s personalities can shift in subtle ways. A person living with dementia may exhibit more pronounced personality changes, such as becoming confused, suspicious, or withdrawn. Changes in personality are thought to be caused by a decrease in one’s ability to hold or follow a conversation, which then causes a domino effect in terms of withdrawal from hobbies, social activities, or other engagements.
10. Loss of initiative
Do you or someone you know seem to be losing interest in friends, family, and hobbies? It’s natural to become tired of housework, work, or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. A person living with dementia may become passive and disinterested, requiring cues and prompting to become involved.
How is dementia diagnosed?
If you are concerned about any of these signs, the next step is to visit your treating GP and start the diagnostic process. After considering your symptoms and ordering screening tests, your GP may offer a preliminary diagnosis or refer you to a neurologist, geriatrician, or psychiatrist. Only a qualified healthcare provider can confirm whether you or someone you know has dementia after multiple assessments and tests.
It’s important to remember that many conditions have symptoms that are similar to dementia, so don’t assume someone has dementia simply because some of the symptoms are present. Dementia-like symptoms can be caused by strokes, depression, alcoholism, infections, hormone disorders, nutritional deficiencies, and brain tumours. Many of these ailments are treatable.
My Care Solution provides specialist in-home dementia care services across Adelaide and Victor Harbor. If you require assistance through the in-home aged care journey, please book a free consultation with one of our skilled Client Care Coordinators.