Understanding the Signs: Dementia

What to do if you see the signs in yourself or your loved one.

This article describes the early signs of dementia. What you should be worried about and if you see the signs in either yourself or your loved ones what you should do about it.

According to Sanjeeta Mackrani, now former Business Development Manager of Alzheimer’s Queensland, “From our experience and discussions with families, it seems to take 3 to 4 years before dementia is finally diagnosed. However, there are early signs such as memory loss, confusion about times and places and difficulty in doing otherwise familiar tasks.”

It can be difficult to know when dementia starts because initial symptoms can be mild. Small warning signs can often be missed by the spouse or the spouse compensates for the person displaying the symptoms of dementia. According to Sanjeeta, “Sometimes when a spouse does notice signs and symptoms, other members of the family can be dismissive and often reply that, ‘there is nothing wrong with Dad’”.

A person who is displaying symptoms of dementia may be hesitant to see their GP. They may be aware of their difficulties and frightened of the outcome of a trip to the doctor, so reassurance is key. Early diagnosis, education, information and understanding by family and friends is essential.

Common Symptoms of Dementia

Although each person is affected in a different way, these are some common symptoms of Dementia:

  • Memory loss, especially for recent events
  • Difficulty finding their way around
  • Problems finding the correct words
  • Poor concentration
  • Problems learning new ideas or skills
  • Trouble using logic during a conversation
  • Problems in judging distance, for example missing the edge of a chair
  • Difficulty co-ordinating movement
  • Psychological changes such as becoming bored or irritable

Source: Extracted from the Bupa publication, Caring for Someone Living with Dementia

Unfortunately, diagnosis is not easy according to Sanjeeta “And even if you do visit the GP in time, many may be hesitant to give a diagnosis of dementia, partly because in the early stages where the individual has developed compensatory techniques, a short ten-minute memory assessment such as the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) will not detect the cognitive decline. The accuracy of MMSE may not be as high as one would like.”

In addition to getting an early diagnosis, Alzheimer’s Queensland has useful suggestions for both the person affected and their carers:

  • Seek out carer support groups in your area
  • Remain physically active, have a healthy diet, and continue to engage in community/social life.
  • If you are feeling distressed, seek the support of a counsellor. Your specialist should be able to refer you to one and there is also Carer’s Queensland Counselling support.
  • Be aware that the incidence of depression and anxiety is increased in people with dementia
  • Educate and seek entry to aged care services early. Often people wait for a crisis point before seeking services.
  • Carers and their loved ones should sort out their financial status and be aware that there is a contribution to care that they may need to make.
  • Dementia is a progressive disease and it is best to put in place legal formalities such as enduring powers of attorney as early as possible
  • Do what you can to slow down the progress of dementia. Music therapy, physical activity, brain exercises and good nutrition are believed to be methods to reduce the rate of decline.

Whilst there is currently no known cure for Dementia, early diagnosis and the steps outlined earlier can help to manage the situation in the best possible way. Some medications could be effective in slowing the rate of progress of the disease. There are also several organisations and support groups who can help both sufferers and their carers. There is extensive research being done in many countries both looking for an effective therapy and looking for ways to slow the progress of Dementia.

If you need further information or guidance, you can contact Alzheimer’s Queensland.


tel: 1800 639 331

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