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Common Symptoms to look out for

When the symptoms of dementia become apparent it is often family or friends who first notice the changes.

The person with memory difficulties may be aware that their memory is failing them but is afraid of what is happening and tries to adopt coping mechanisms to hide their problem.

If you ‘ the carer’ are the first to notice any changes it is preferable to talk to the person who is experiencing difficulties about how you can both get some help. Memory difficulties do not automatically mean that a person is developing dementia as there are other reasons why a person’s memory can deteriorate.

• Loss of a second language – for people from ethnic minority communities with English as a second language this causes increased isolation

• Changes in mood, personality and behaviour e.g.becoming more possessive, scared, suspicious, loss of inhibitions, changes in sexual behaviour

• Poor concentration to read, write, drive and complete a task

• Loss of skills e.g. self-care, washing, dressing, putting clothes on in the wrong order, shopping and cooking

• Loss of co-ordination of thought and movement,with changes in posture and mood

• Inability to judge time and place e.g. wandering,unable to find way home

These skills could be all gradually lost as the dementia progresses.

Is it dementia or is it forgetfulness?

It is important to clearly explain the symptoms to the family doctor. It can be helpful to go together to the surgery for an appointment. The doctor can then:-

• Use tests to judge any decline in memory and mental ability

• Repeat these tests to see if there are any changes over time

• Begin the process of diagnosis

• Arrange tests as appropriate, to eliminate treatable diseases, such as depression and infection

• Make a referral to a consultant or specialist clinics

• Make referrals to other organisations and support services to access help for you both

• Eliminate the possibility that the symptoms are due to age. Age can be seen as a reason for many illnesses and many need to be questioned to ensure vital information is not overlooked when a diagnosis is being made.