Dementia can affect people differently, and each patient shows symptoms in their own way.
However, there are a few common symptoms that they will most likely experience, especially in the early stages of the condition.
These symptoms can start mild and can gradually get more severe as time goes on. It's often termed "mild cognitive impairment" (MCI), as the symptoms are not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia.
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. It is very important that you talk to your GP if you or your loved ones are showing any signs of cognitive impairment.
The most common symptom of dementia is memory loss. This is because dementia is caused by damage to the brain, and this damage can affect areas of the brain involved in creating and retrieving memories.
It is completely normal to occasionally forget appointments, people’s names or where you put your car keys, only to remember a short while later. However, for dementia patients this can be much more persistent, and can affect their day to day life greatly. They may find themselves forgetting things much more often, and having more difficulty eventually remembering these things down the line.
This can be difficult to deal with for both the person themselves and for people around them.
Dementia can often lead to losing track of dates, seasons and even the passage of time for the person living with the condition. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there, leading them to become lost or confused about their location. This can happen at any stage during the disease.
According to the dementia society, 6 in 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once; many do so repeatedly. This can cause a massive strain on those taking care of them as the worry of not knowing where they are or where they are going can be stressful.
Difficulty Completing Tasks
People living with dementia often find it hard to complete daily tasks, such as taking daily medication or making a cup of tea. This difficulty with completing familiar tasks could happen wherever they are without any warning and can become increasingly frustrating for them, contributing to angry outbursts and much more stress.
Issues with Speaking or Writing
They may find themselves having issues following or joining a casual conversation, stopping in the middle of a sentence, repeating themselves regularly or struggling with basic vocabulary. This might begin with forgetting the name of a common object such as a watch, or getting them confused entirely, for example calling a ‘watch’ a ‘hand clock’.
An individual with dementia’s judgement and reasoning can be heavily impacted depending on how far the condition has progressed. A person living with dementia may have issues with their perception also. For instance, they may not recognise a medical problem that needs attention, or be unable to correctly prepare for the day’s temperature (for example, leading to them wearing heavy clothing on a hot day). This is usually the first indicator that a patient may be beginning to suffer from memory loss.
Changes in Mood
It is common to feel down or moody from time to time, but when these feelings are happening more often it can indicate that something deeper is going on. Dementia patients often experience mood swings, switching from calmness to tears to anger for no apparent reason. This can be due to many reasons, such as frustration in their loss of abilities, to sometimes feeling scared or confused. Mood swings can also be a signal that the individual is in pain.
Loss of Initiative
It isn’t uncommon for dementia sufferers to seem uninterested in friends, family or their favourite activities. While many of us can admit to feeling bored of mundane daily activities, such as housework, we can usually force ourselves to regain the initiative. A person with dementia may become passive and distant and could require a lot more coercion to become more involved in an activity or task.
There are many symptoms of dementia, as the condition is wide, varied, and often different for each person living with it. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s always best to speak to your GP and get a check-up to make sure everything is ok!