Our memory can be affected by a variety of factors such as stress, tiredness or even medications. As we age our memory might not be what it once was but there is a strong difference between this and dementia. Dementia not only affects a person's memory it also can affect cognition, physical ability and behaviour as brain function declines.
The onset of dementia can be very concerning. Though symptoms can vary, if your loved one is showing a variety of the below signs it's important to speak to a healthcare professional and seek a full assessment.
One of the most common and early signs of dementia is frequent memory loss and forgetfulness. This will happen more regularly and frequently than the average person of their age.
Hiding or Losing Items
The memory loss caused by dementia may lead them to forget where they have put an item. However, due to changes in behaviour and personality, they may also revert to hiding or hoarding objects.
Difficulty with Familiar Tasks
This may be from missing a key component to a usual task such as forgetting clothing or keys to having difficulty dressing at all or preparing a meal.
Someone with dementia may have difficulties remembering a familiar route, they may feel confused as to how they got to their current location or even temporarily believe they are at a past time in their life.
Language and Communication
We often find trouble finding the right words but with dementia even making sentences may be difficult. They may have trouble with words, use the incorrect words or have trouble understanding others. This can be very frustrating and following conversations difficult for them.
People with dementia can become agitated or restless, this can be compounded by their difficulty communicating. Restlessness can be caused by pain or discomfort, hunger, thirst or the need to toilet. It can also be the frustration of trying to communicate.
Changes in Sleeping Patterns
Sleep is crucial for our mental and physical health but, living with dementia can greatly affect sleep patterns. Some people may sleep all day, others may wake constantly even getting dressed and starting their routine at unusual times of night. Dementia can greatly disrupt the body clock but it is also important to make sure there are not other factors disrupting sleep such as mental health, pain or illness
Repetition can be caused by memory loss, confusion or difficulty communicating their needs. It's important to remain patient, be clear with your answers and try to look for the underlying reason for the questions for example, do they need the bathroom or are they feeling anxious?
Dementia can cause poor judgement such as lack of social awareness, use of inappropriate words or dress. This can even extend to poor spatial awareness or direction which can be dangerous partaking certain activities formally carried out such as driving.
Mood, Personality or Behavioural Changes
If you notice rapid changes in moods, personality or behaviour it could be signs of dementia. Mood changes could be becoming angry or emotional which is understandable given the confusion and frustration caused by living with dementia. It is important to try to find out what is causing the distress or changes and to try to emotionally support the person with dementia.