Dementia Support: Spotting the signs and diagnosis

Knowing and spotting the signs of dementia helps to diagnose it sooner.

Anyone affected by dementia will experience it differently, but there are some common signs to look out for if you are worried about a loved one.

The common signs and symptoms you should look out for are:

  • Memory loss – more severe and persistent than just being forgetful
  • Changes in behaviour – someone may seem out of character or their personality traits become emphasised (E.g. someone being more nervous or anxious)
  • Trouble with communicating – struggling to find the right word or become ‘stuck’ on certain words. Language changes can be a sign of Frontotemporal dementia
  • Aggression – becoming physically and verbally aggressive
  • Changes in perception and hallucinations – seeing and/or hearing things that are not present
  • Walking– spending long periods walking around the home or trying to go outside. They may be searching for something or someone, feeling restless or relieving discomfort.
  • Sleep disturbance – can cause problems in someone’s natural ‘body-clock’ and affect sleep-wake cycle
  • Apathy, depression and anxiety – apathy is developed from damage to the brain’s frontal lobes which controls motivation and sequencing tasks. Depression and anxiety can be linked to someone’s worry about their memory and future

If you have concerns about yourself or a loved one, book an appointment with the GP. If you are booking an appointment for yourself, ask someone you trust to join you, or if it’s for a loved one, ask if you can join them so you can provide your support and help share information.

The GP will run an assessment to rule out any other conditions that may also show signs and symptoms, such as depression, vitamin B12 deficiency or abnormal thyroid function. They may take a blood test, a urine sample and, if necessary, an x-ray of the chest to rule out physical conditions. Cognitive abilities will also be tested with the GP asking questions such as what day it is, name common items, or remembering something. This test concentration and short-term memory.

Following the GP assessments, they may put in a referral for a memory service, clinic or specialists for further tests. These further assessments will look into the medical history of the family, test cognitive abilities with a ‘mental state examinations’ or ‘cognitive testing’, and may request an MRI or CT scan to examine the structure of the brain.

Being diagnosed with a form of dementia can be hard to take in; yourself or a loved one will probably feel numb and scared, so allow time to adjust.

There is a range of support services that are there to help. Charities such as Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK, and Age UK can provide advice for those living with dementia and their loved ones, as well as host groups and activities to be part of.

There is no cure for dementia, but research is being conducted to help fight it. There are drugs and therapy treatments that can help with the symptoms of dementia.

At Heritage Healthcare Epsom, we provide unique care plans to support anyone living with the effects of dementia. These plans can be tailor made to provide personal care, household help and companionship, with a dedicated care team who are highly trained in different aspects of care.

To find out more, please visit our dedicated dementia service page by clicking here or you can use one of the contact methods found here to get in touch with our friendly team and having a chat about how we can support you and your loved ones.

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