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Early signs of dementia checklist: What to look out for

We take a look at what are the early signs of Dementia that need to be spotted in elderly relatives and what you can do to help them.

December 19, 2022

Wife consoling husband with Dementia

Dementia is a range of symptoms rather than a condition itself. These signs are caused by brain damage that can result from a disease such as Alzheimer's or vascular issues. There are an estimated 900,000 people in the UK with dementia currently, a figure that is expected to rise significantly over the coming years due to the ageing population. With age being one of the most significant factors in developing dementia, it can be beneficial for family members and loved ones of older people to know the signs to look out for and what to do if symptoms are spotted.

In this article, we look at the main early dementia symptoms, risk factors and ways that these risks can be reduced, along with what to do if you think a loved one might be developing dementia.

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Types of early dementia symptoms

As dementia is a collection of symptoms rather than a condition in itself, it can affect people and display them in many different ways. The extent to which these symptoms affect daily life and the length of time they have been present is important to note, as it can help make a plan to manage dementia and help your loved one maintain quality of life for as long as possible. In our checklist of early dementia signs to look out for, we've split them into several sections based on how they might affect someone.

Early dementia symptoms that affect mental ability and memory

Memory loss – Is your loved one having problems remembering recent events, getting mixed up with people's names, dates and times, or struggling to retain the information they are told?

Repeating themselves – Are they repeating questions or repeating the same pieces of information over and over again?

Difficulties finding the right word – Does your loved one sometimes seem unable to find the word they want to use or perhaps leaves some sentences unfinished?

Having issues judging distances – Do they seem to be having problems picking things up? Do they stumble or fall more easily than they used to? Do they sometimes mistake patterns or reflections for other things?

Putting things in unusual places around the home – Have they put things in unusual places, e.g. non-food items into the fridge or freezer, or things from the kitchen or bathroom into a place they wouldn't normally be in?

Changing the way they make decisions – Does your loved one struggle to make decisions they previously would have had no problems with? Have they made impulsive or risky decisions that don't seem to match their previous behaviour or approach to life?

Senior woman hugged by Dementia patient

Early dementia symptoms that affect daily life

Changes to sleep patterns – Does your loved one struggle with getting enough sleep? Do they frequently wake up at night, or have they started getting up at unusual times?

Having issues with everyday household tasks – Have they started to struggle with paying bills, shopping for food and other essentials or making plans, e.g. social activities, that they previously wouldn't have had any issues with?

Feeling lost or confused in places they already know – Do they sometimes seem to forget where they are, what they are doing there or how they arrived and how to get home? Or do they wander off from their usual route or from the people they are with?

Early dementia symptoms that affect mood and behaviour

Acting in a way that is out of character – Has their behaviour changed significantly from how they used to act?

Getting upset, angry or aggressive easily – Does your loved one's personality seem to have changed or do they seem to experience more extreme emotions than they used to?

Showing symptoms of depression or anxiety – Has your loved one seemed especially sad, expressed feelings of hopelessness or been overly concerned or worried about something that previously wouldn't have had this response?

Losing interest – Have they lost interest in something they used to really enjoy or feel personally invested in?

Feeling unable to relax or stay still – Has your loved one started behaving restlessly, finding it difficult to relax or sit down and stay there for any length of time?

Risk factors for dementia

Most people diagnosed with dementia are over the age of 65. Along with age, other groups that can be disproportionately affected when it comes to developing dementia statistically include those with South Asian or African and African-Caribbean heritage, and more women are affected by dementia than men.

However, there are other risk factors that can potentially be modified to help reduce the risk of developing dementia. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • A high intake of alcohol, especially over a sustained period of time
  • Lack of activity/exercise
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Poor physical health in general

Reducing dementia risk in older people

Some of the ways to help reduce some of these risk factors include:

  • Having regular health check-ups, like an NHS health check, that includes things like a blood pressure check, a blood test and receiving personalised health advice tailored to the individual
  • Talking to the GP about any conditions already diagnosed to make sure they are being managed effectively
  • Potentially making some changes to diet and physical activity to help improve all-round health and wellbeing
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Stopping smoking
  • Having social engagement with people, both in groups and one-to-one, if possible
  • Doing hobbies or taking up new interests that can stimulate the brain
  • Listening to music, especially music from different eras throughout the individual's life

What to do if you're worried about a loved one and dementia

The first thing to do if you're concerned about an elderly loved one and think they are displaying some early signs of dementia is to try to get them to visit their GP. It can be a good idea to attend the appointment with them if they would like some moral support or if they are a bit confused about why they are seeing the doctor.

Diagnosing dementia isn't always straightforward and often requires a specialist's assistance to do an assessment, which the GP can arrange a referral for. There may be some scans or tests involved. Getting a diagnosis will mean that a dementia plan can be put in place for treatment and management to help with life going forward.

Man helping elderly relative with Dementia

While waiting for appointments and tests can be a very worrying time for everyone. One thing that could help bring peace of mind in this kind of situation is to look at dementia alarms that can track your loved one's location and ensure that they can get assistance if something happens when you're not with them. For example, there are options for sending an alert if your loved one moves out of a pre-defined area if they have started to wander off at times, so you can always know where they are via a secure website you can have access to.

Another thing that can really help with making sure that your loved one is safer at home is an elderly monitoring system for UK homes. This system uses the latest technology to unobtrusively monitor the home of the older person (with no cameras or microphones involved) and can raise an alert if their behaviour changes or if something in the house isn't as it should be, e.g. if the temperature of the home drops below a certain level, or if the fridge or kettle isn't being used as normal.

You can also consider how to adapt your home to make it more dementia safe and dementia friendly activities at Christmas.

If you want more information on personal alarms or home monitors and to discuss your situation to find the best product for the circumstances, our team are happy to help. Call us on 0800 085 7371.

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

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Ways to support independent living

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure

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