5 Early Symptoms of Dementia to Look Out For
According to the NHS, there are more than 944,000 people living in the UK with dementia. With cases increasing along with the population’s average life expectancy, it’s believed that 1 in 11 people over the age of 65 now have dementia in the UK.
But what actually is dementia, and what are the signs? Here we share a guide to some of the early symptoms of dementia and what to look out for. If you have any concerns, please make sure that you contact a doctor.
What is dementia?
The World Health Organisation states that dementia itself is not a disease, but rather the cumulative symptoms of brain damage caused by several different diseases. These diseases, including Alzheimer's and Vascular Dementia, have a degenerative effect on a person’s memory, cognitive ability and social behaviour. And, while some symptoms present similarly, the exact nature depends on the individual case and which part of the brain that has been affected.
Typically occurring in older people, age is one of the most common factors attributed to the onset of dementia in the UK. However, it is not a normal part of the ageing process, and in some cases, early symptoms of dementia can even develop in younger people. In both older and younger people, the diseases that cause dementia lead to progressive and permanent damage to the brain. Over time, this leads to increasing difficulty in processing thoughts, as well as changes in mood and emotion.
Eventually, these symptoms can make it difficult for a person to maintain an independent life. That said, although there is currently no cure for dementia, an early diagnosis can help to both slow down and manage the symptoms. With the right help, many people with dementia are able to proactively prepare for the future and continue to live active lives. That’s why it’s really important to be able to recognise the early symptoms of dementia and seek the right treatment and support.
What are the early symptoms of dementia to look out for?
Dementia itself is not a disease, but a collection of symptoms from different diseases that cause damage to the brain. According to Dementia UK, the most common types of these diseases include “Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia”.
Each type of disease can affect people differently and symptoms depend on which part of the brain has been affected. However, though each case is individual and everyone’s journey with dementia will be unique, there are some effects that are particularly common. Here are some of the early symptoms of dementia to look out for:
Memory loss is perhaps the most well-known early symptom of dementia. This impacts a person’s ability to process and retain information and can affect both short-term and long-term memory. With memory loss a common early symptom of dementia, it often leads to difficulty recalling recent events or details, as well as applying knowledge or information. As time goes on, this can also affect a person’s understanding of their current environment, relationships, and situations.
Difficulty concentrating is a challenging early symptom of dementia that most people experience. Whilst this can manifest in different ways, it can impact a person’s ability to focus on tasks or organise events and activities. This can include difficulty making decisions, solving problems, following instructions or carrying out daily tasks. Routine habits and behaviours, such as cooking a meal or counting change, can become more challenging.
Another of the early symptoms of dementia includes impaired perception. In the early stages of dementia, this can include changes in how a person is able to process and analyse details about the world around them. For example, someone with the early symptoms of dementia may struggle with spatial awareness or how to judge distances. They may also find it hard to identify people and objects; for example, mistaking their spouse for a parent, or a child for a sibling.
As dementia affects the brain, it can make things like communication difficult. One of the most common early symptoms of dementia includes problems with following conversations or finding the right word. In the early stages, thoughts and responses in conversation become more delayed.
Struggles with Time and Place
One of the early symptoms of dementia that is commonly experienced is difficulty keeping track of time and place. In the beginning, people with the onset of dementia can lose their sense of what time or date it is, and can find it difficult to remember where they are – even in well-known locations. This may include difficulty remembering how to get to, or back from, places they know well.
Changes in Mood
The early symptoms of dementia can develop gradually, so it may be possible to live with the early signs for a while without realising. However, over time, dementia can impact someone’s mood and the ability to control or understand emotions. For example, this can include heightened feelings of anxiety, irritability, sadness or fear, and in the early stages can lead to subtle changes in personality.
Wisteria House Dementia Care
Dementia can have significant physical and psychological effects, as well as social and economic impacts, on both those living with the symptoms and for those around them. For some, the symptoms will worsen, whilst for others, they may remain the same. That is why it is really important to recognise the early signs and symptoms of dementia and seek professional help and guidance. If you recognise any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, or if you have any concerns, it’s important that you speak to a doctor.
At Wisteria House in Plymstock, we provide a safe, comfortable home for people living with dementia. Rated CQC Outstanding, we specialise in providing the highest quality of life for people living with dementia and create a comfortable, friendly environment. If you would like to find out more, please do get in touch.