Witnessing a loved one in the grips of dementia, or fearing that you are experiencing symptoms of it yourself can be very worrying. Along with ensuring you get all the help you require, one of the best ways to assuage a fear is by educating yourself about it so you are prepared for what happens.
The Alzheimer’s Society describes dementia as ‘a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.
Some of the first symptoms of dementia are:
- Memory loss – people with dementia can find it difficult to retain new information, but also can struggle with recalling familiar names and faces. They may get lost in places that they know well or lose possessions regularly.
- Cognitive ability – tasks that once seemed simple such as organising a meeting or wearing temperature appropriate clothes are frequently misjudged. Conversation can become challenging
- Personality changes – a difference in usual behaviour might become noticeable, people with dementia can become withdrawn or irritable, suspicious or depressed. Rapid mood swings may occur, or emotions may become more strongly expressed.
It’s important to remember that becoming more forgetful does not necessarily mean that a person is experiencing the onset of dementia, as memory is known to deteriorate with age. Eyesight and hearing can also deteriorate with age and so symptoms that might appear to be signs of dementia are actually caused by the deterioration of these senses (e.g. failing to recognise someone and not taking part in conversations).
People in the early stages of dementia are often able to live happy active lives and engage fully with their communities if the right support is available.
Types of dementia
The most commonly diagnosed types of dementia are:
- Alzheimer’s – this is the most well-known form of dementia which we believe to be caused by various changes I the brain, although it is not yet known what triggers these changes. The Alzheimers Society reported that there were 815,827 people living with Dementia in the UK which represents 1 in every 14 of the population over the age of 65.
- Vascular dementia – accounts for 17% of Dementia and is caused by bleeding in the brain following a stroke. Vascular dementia is the second most commonly diagnosed form of dementia.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies – accounts for 4% of Dementia cases. Lewy bodies are abnormal proteins that appear in nerve cells and cause their function to become impaired.
- Frontotemporal dementia – a rarer type of dementia (accounts for 2%) that is signified by emotional and behavioural changes rather than memory loss.
Many Dementia societies believe that people in the early stages of dementia are often able to live happy active lives providing the correct support structures are in place. With this in mind there are a number of services and resource provides that are available and just a few of these have been listed below.
Dementia UK runs a helpline staffed by nurses specialising in dementia to offer specialist advice and support to:
- Family or professional carers of someone with dementia
- People dealing with a diagnosis of dementia
- Those worried about their memory or the memory of a loved one
You can get in contact by phone on: 0800 888 6678 or online by filling out a form and receiving an email response.
Alzheimer’s Research UK– The UK’s leading Alzheimer’s research charity.
Social Care Institute for Excellence– The SCIE provides information, guidance, resources and accredited training for anyone supporting people with dementia.