If you’re familiar with Care In Kent and the work that we do, you’ll know that caring for the elderly as we would members of our own family is at the heart of everything we stand for - and if you’re a regular reader of our articles, you’ll know that supporting those with dementia, and their families is one of our areas of expertise.
But do you know what signs to look for in someone who may be suffering from dementia? When does ‘becoming forgetful with age’ become something that requires extra care?
In this article we take a look at the different types of dementia; what the symptoms are, and how they might present themselves.
Is Nan Just Getting A Bit Forgetful….?
It’s understandable that as we enter the twilight years of a long and full life, our bodies and minds might begin to decline. Our joints, eyesight, hearing, and other senses might not be what they once were, and our cognitive health can suffer the same.
Dementia isn’t a disease in itself, but is a blanket term for a collection of symptoms caused by damage to the brain from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and these symptoms vary depending on what part of the brain is damaged.
Different types of dementia can affect people very differently, but some common symptoms that people can experience before a dementia diagnosis include:
Struggling to carry out familiar tasks
Confusion about time or places
Changes in mood
Struggling to follow or carry on a conversation
Difficulty in concentrating
These symptoms, when mild or only progressing very gradually they are known as MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and aren’t severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia - although some with MCI could go on to develop it.
Dementia shouldn’t be seen as just a natural part of aging, which is why it’s important to speak to a GP if you yourself, or an elderly loved one is displaying such symptoms.
When It’s More Than MCI
If you or a loved one have MCI you might not notice straight away, or even take it seriously if you do - but how do you know when mild forgetfulness and confusion is more than MCI?
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, and is probably a name you’re familiar with.
Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:
Asking questions repetitively
Regularly forgetting names, faces, and events
Confusion in unfamiliar environments
Becoming withdrawn and anxious
Increasing difficulty with everyday tasks
Difficulty with activities that require organisation or planning
Difficulty with numbers and with handling money
Someone with Alzheimer’s might not display all of these symptoms all of the time, but it is a progressive disease so symptoms can gradually get worse over time.
Less-well known, vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia. The symptoms are very similar to Alzheimer’s, although they might not be as obvious in the early stages of the disease. Vascular dementia can develop suddenly and progress quickly, or can develop gradually over the course of many months, or even years.
It’s also possible for someone to have both Alzheimer’s AND vascular dementia - often called ‘mixed dementia’, but the specific symptoms of vascular dementia are:
Problems with movement, such as difficulty walking or changes in the way a person walks
Difficulty paying attention
Difficulty with planning and reasoning
Depression, and a tendency to be more emotional
Stroke-like symptoms such as muscle weakness or temporary paralysis down one side of the body. These symptoms require urgent medical attention
You may have heard of these types of dementia, or even have a loved one who already lives with the condition, but there are other, lesser-known (but still common) types of dementia such as:
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Dementia with Lewy bodies is often first suspected to be Alzheimer’s due to the similarity in symptoms. However those with this condition also typically experience:
Repeated falls or fainting
Slower physical movements
Fluctuating levels of confusion
Periods of being alert and drowsy
As with all types of dementia, there is no cure for Dementia with Lewy bodies, but there are medications that can help reduce hallucinations, movement problems and disturbed sleep.
Dementia is rare in those under the age of 65, and is known as early onset dementia. Aside from Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia in the under 65 year old age group is frontotemporal dementia, with most cases being diagnosed in 45-65 year olds.
The symptoms for this type of dementia are a little more varied, and include:
Reduced sensitivity to other people’s feelings
Lack of social awareness
A lack of tact, or becoming withdrawn and apathetic
Problems find the right words or understanding some words altogether
Becoming obsessive - for example overeating or drinking.
As dementia progresses, the symptoms of memory loss and not being able to communicate can become very severe, and in the later stages of the illness someone with dementia will begin to neglect their own health and will require round the clock care and attention.
In the most advanced stages symptoms are:
Not recognising family and friends
Not remembering where they live or recognising where they are
Some may lose the ability to speak
Inability to walk unaided, possibly confined to a bed or requiring a wheelchair
Increased agitation, wandering, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations
Bladder or bowel incontinence
Trouble eating or swallowing
Sadly, there is no cure for dementia, and the progression of symptoms can be slow or frighteningly quick. It can be devastating to watch the person you love become someone very different right before you eyes, but there is support out there such as your GP, and charities such as:
Alzheimer’s Society https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/
Dementia UK https://www.dementiauk.org/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwyN-DBhCD...
Care In kent are also on hand to help, with at-home and respite care available from members of our experienced and dedicated team. If you are concerned about someone you love who is living with dementia, please get in touch.