At PillarCare we specialise in supporting people living with dementia and providing advice and support to the people around them. We understand that dementia can be difficult to understand and identifying it can be a tough process. But early diagnosis can be extremely beneficial in several ways. There are treatments for some forms of dementia that can have a significant impact on the progression and severity of the disease. For example, some drug treatments available seem to improve symptoms by improving the function of the healthy brain cells.
Early diagnosis can also be beneficial so that other lifestyle factors that might contribute to dementia symptoms can be addressed. For example, Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia may be made worse by risk factors such as untreated high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Improving other areas of day-to-day living and functioning will also be beneficial, such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and ensuring regular fluid intake.
All of the above will help both the individual and family accept and positively move forward with a dementia diagnosis. Having as much information about the illness will benefit the patient, family and caregiver. Being properly informed will also be a huge help for the assessment and delivery of an effective care plan.
There are some symptoms of dementia that are common and affect many people who are living with the disease from the early stages and it is useful to be aware of these in order to get a diagnosis as early as possible.
Decline in memory
A loss of memory is one of the most noticeable signs of onset dementia. This will often hit the hardest in their short-term memory capacity and impact their daily lifestyle. They may still recognise who you are at this stage but will forget small details they normally would remember like inside jokes or memories with you. The decline in memory can be progressive so that the patient can remember details very clearly of, for example, a singular event that took place several years ago. But may not remember details from that day. The warning signs may often look like forgetting names, places, or things they did earlier in the day.
Problems with language and communication
Because of the variation of changes in the brain as a result of dementia, communication is bound to change. This may be due to a more withdrawn personality change or it could accompany a change in moods such as depression or anxiety. Another red flag will be problems with speech patterns and not remembering words normally used in a sentence. This can also be accompanied by replacing words with strange words or sayings not used before. Another sign of the onset of dementia can be the loss of learned language skills beyond the mother tongue. Writing may also be effected as well as speech.
Changes in behaviour & trouble concentrating
This can include changes in mood, inability to control emotions or feeling overwhelmed or very anxious. Fluctuating ability is particularly difficult for carers to predict and can be frustrating for both patient and their friends/family. This may include loss of ability to carry out everyday tasks or tasks requiring more complex mobility. Diminishing attention span is another common symptom of dementia. Not being able to keep track of conversations, TV shows or really comprehending what you are saying, can be a sign of the onset of dementia.
This will sometimes appear as lack of judgement, for example putting on strange clothing choices that do not match or losing the ability to properly sequence the order they dress in. Sometimes dementia patients may lose their ability to reason with others around them, becoming frustrated with being asked to carry out everyday tasks or refusing help.
Dementia impacts the brain’s ability to process all of the above categories of information. Processing information as the brain’s functions deteriorate is arguably the most challenging part of dementia. The world that a person has come to know and understand starts to change as their ability to process information changes.
What to do if you think you or someone you care about has dementia?
Don’t try to guess or self-diagnose dementia. Dementia can be complex to diagnose as sometimes the symptoms can be mild or confused with other conditions. A simple call to your GP to discuss concerns is the first action to take.
Your GP will ask a series of questions and then often refer to a specialist condition and/or a Memory Clinic, who will carry out some tests to make the diagnosis of dementia and/or what type of dementia it is. Your GP will then discuss the treatment options available depending on the diagnosis.
At PillarCare we are always happy to speak to people about any questions they have on their journey with dementia. One of our trained management team can talk you through the options available to you.
“The landscape of dementia is ever-changing and its impact of both the person living with dementia and the people around them is profound. Helping to raise awareness around the unpredictability of the way dementia affects people and management strategies for these changes is vital. Focusing on maintaining quality of life and enjoying moments day to day is one of our main themes in the work we do with dementia care,” states Oona Corke, Community Care Manager at PillarCare.
Oona joined PillarCare in 2001. She focuses on visiting and monitoring the people we provide care for, ensuring that each is receiving the correct services and care at all times. She has a professional background in patient outreach projects and health communications and has worked on patient information projects for the NHS, University of Westminster and The Department of Health. Oona has a post-graduate diploma in Human Ecology and Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care.