Trying to understand if you or a loved one has dementia can be a saddening time. Understanding the principles of dementia can be essential in understanding and helping someone. If you’re worried about a loved one, we’ll tell you what are the earliest signs of dementia and how you can help.
What is dementia?
Dementia is the general term used to describe someone with the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that affects their ability to complete every day activities. Dementia usually affects the older generation, but it is not a normal part of growing old. It is a common misconception that dementia is a disease which it is in fact not- it is a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain from other diseases like alzheimers. The symptoms of dementia vary depending upon which part of the brain is damaged.
What are the earliest signs of dementia?
While everyone will experience dementia in a different way, here we will list out some symptoms that seem to be coherent with the majority of people with dementia. Some time before the diagnosis of dementia include but are not limited to:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Finding it hard to carry through with daily tasks, like counting change
- Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right words
- Being confused about the time and place
- Mood changes
- Trouble understanding visual images (difficulty balancing, reading, judging distance, determining colour or contrast)
- Problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things
- Poor judgement
These symptoms of dementia gradually worsen over time and are usually called ‘mild cognitive impairment’ when the link between the symptoms and dementia isn’t strong enough. The symptoms for some people with mild cognitive impairment never get any worse, they just stay as they are. This is why it can sometimes be difficult for a family member to distinguish between a person functioning normally (for them) and a person who has dementia. Dementia is a natural part of aging and there is no shame in having these early symptoms.
Symptoms linked to Alzheimer’s disease
Dementia most commonly comes from Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s important we discuss the early signs of alzheimers too. Some symptoms include:
- Asking questions repetitively
- Becoming confused in unfamiliar environments
- Difficulty with numbers
- Becoming more withdrawn or anxious
Symptoms in the later stages of dementia
In the later stages of dementia, you will find people are not only showing signs of memory loss, but are also neglecting their own health and require consistent care and attention.
The more common symptoms of developed dementia include but are not limited to:
- Memory problems- not recognising close family or friends or remember where they currently are or where they live
- Some people may not be able to speak
- Mobility problems such as the ability to walk
- Behavioural and thought problems- this includes increased agitation, depressive symptoms, wondering, anxiety and hallucinations
- Appetite and weight loss problems. People with advanced dementia often have trouble swallowing or eating.
How can I help someone I love with the earliest signs of dementia?
It is important for people with dementia to maintain hobbies, skills and activities and keep an active social life too. This can help improve their self esteem and keep them occupied. Some things you could do to help include:
- Laying the table
- Taking the dog for a walk
- Make sure they drink plenty of water. A loved one with dementia may forget to drink water which puts them at risk of getting
How to help a friend with the earliest signs of dementia sleep properly
- Get them a dementia friendly clock which tells you if it’s night or day
- Make sure the person has physical activity during the day
- Cut out caffeine and alcohol
- Make sure the bedroom is comfortable and have a nightlight or blackout blinds
- Limit daytime naps
How to help a friend with the earliest signs of dementia who is scared of washing
- They might be worried of the bath water being too deep, so reassure the person that they won’t get hurt
- They might not like the noisy rush of the shower- use a handheld shower
- They might have a fear of falling over- use a bath seat
- They might be embarrassed about getting undressed in front of someone else- ask them how they would like to be helped.
To help give the person with dementia help to remember where things are, it may be helpful to label cupboards, draws and doors so they know how to navigate around the home.
If you are worried about a loved one with the earliest signs of dementia and you think they need assistance, we provide live-in care in and around coventry. Take a look at our website to find out how we can help.