According to the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), an estimated 250 people each day are diagnosed with dementia, that’s one about every six minutes. This is predicted to increase to 318 people per day by 2025 and more than 650 people per day by 2056.
There is not one particular test that can be used to determine if a person has dementia. Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are diagnosed based on a number of factors. A doctor will look at a person’s medical history and carry out a physical examination and several laboratory tests. They will also look for changes in thinking that are characteristic to dementia, how the person functions in their day-to-day life, and their behaviour. Taking all of these factors into consideration, doctors can determine whether or not a person has dementia with a high level of certainty.
If you are concerned that you or someone close to you may develop dementia, there are a number of signs to look out for. The following signs are the most common in indicating that a person may be living with dementia.
1. Memory Loss That Is Affecting Ability To Function
While it is normal to occasionally forget appointments, names of acquaintances or other information as we age, we will often remember it a little while later or when prompted. A person living with dementia may notice that they are forgetting things more often and cannot remember them even when prompted. They may also find it difficult to retain new information.
2. Language Problems
It is common to have trouble finding the right words to articulate what we want to say from time to time. For a person living with dementia, simple words may often be forgotten. They may substitute the words that have been forgotten with another word that doesn’t necessarily make sense, which can make it difficult to understand what the person is trying to communicate.
3. Compromised Judgement
A person living with dementia may have reduced ability to recognise when something is putting their health or safety at risk. For example, they may forget to wrap up in warm clothes on a cold day, or they may not recognise signs of a medical issue that should be attended to by a doctor. This is due to changes in the brain that are affecting their judgment or decision-making abilities.
4. Losing Interest In Previously Enjoyable Activities
A person living in the early stages dementia may become more passive and disinterested in taking part in activities. While previously they would have joined in with enthusiasm, they may start to need more prompting to become involved.
5. Having Difficulty Doing Simple Tasks
When we are busy, it’s easy to get so distracted that we forget to do something simple, such as serving or preparing part of a meal. For a person living with dementia, carrying out tasks that were once part of their routine can become difficult. For example, someone living with dementia may forget how to prepare a simple meal that they’ve been cooking their whole life, or forget how to play a game that they’ve played many times before.
6. Changes In Mood, Behaviour And Personality
Sometimes a person living with dementia may have various mood swings. Their mood can change quickly from being calm one moment, to tears or anger the next, often for no apparent reason. A person living with dementia may also experience quite severe personality changes. They may be more easily confused, or they may become, suspicious, withdrawn or fearful.
7. Feelings of Disorientation
Confusion in terms of date, time and location is common for a person living with dementia. In some cases, a person with dementia will forget the day of the week and be unable to recall even when prompted. They may also get lost easily or not know how to get home – even in their own neighbourhood.
8. Regularly Misplacing Things
A person with dementia may have problems with misplacing their belongings. For example, they may put their wallet in the freezer or leave the TV remote in the bread bin. This is one of the common early signs that a person may be living with dementia.
9. Difficulties with Abstract Thinking
Someone living with dementia may have problems carrying out tasks that require abstract thinking, such as making calculations or balancing their accounts. This is due to the changes in their brain, which impact their ability to process information.
These signs typically apply to Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type of dementia. Many of these symptoms may also apply to other types of dementia. Bear in mind that not all symptoms are listed above, and if you are concerned that you or someone you live with may be living with dementia, it is important to seek advice from a professional.
If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, Brain Sparks’ Dementia Live® course may be of benefit to you. The course immerses carers in the experience of living with Dementia to give them powerful insights for effectively communicating with those in their care.