Recognising the Early Signs of Dementia

11 Apr 2017  |
  • Home Care
    Hands walking stick elderly old person

    Essential things that families should know

    Supporting ageing parents at the same time as looking after your children and juggling work commitments is a lot to take on.  With so much to consider, it is not uncommon that changes to our parents’ well-being – including those that may be cause for concern – can be overlooked.  This is especially so when communication with our parents – who in some situations may be some distance away – is restricted to phone or skype.

    Dementia is increasingly common and we are only now better recognising the impact not only on those living with the condition but also on their family and carers. Its early effects can be subtle, and are too often overlooked until symptoms have led to crises and sometimes the need for emergency care or hospitalisation, or premature or avoidable nursing home admission.  Opportunities to act early will result in avoiding these harmful crises. Simply being aware of the early signs of dementia and taking a few small steps to address those changes can have a profound, positive effect on the welfare of everyone in your family.

    Recognising the early signs of dementia

    The early signs of dementia are often subtle.  While they vary among individuals, these signs can be easy to spot if you are aware of what to look out for.  Some of the more common signs of early dementia are listed below.

    • Memory loss: this is often the first sign of dementia to be recognised. This can sometimes be subtle in nature but can lead to a reduction in a parent’s ability to complete usual daily activities, like taking their medication or preparing a meal.
    • Losing things: placing items in inappropriate places or frequently losing belongings is another potential sign of early dementia.
    • Time and place: individuals with early dementia can struggle to comprehend time or place, becoming confused about the time of day, the day in the week, where they are or how to get to somewhere they need to be. These symptoms may also be compounded by difficulty judging distances or direction while driving.
    • Cognition: making sense of numbers, managing finances and other abstract thinking may also become more difficult. Changes in language may also occur, for example difficulty finding the right word, substituting the wrong word or finding it harder to make sense of conversations.
    • Mood and personality: changes in personality, including rapidly changing mood, episodes of confusion, suspicious thoughts or withdrawing from usual activities or hobbies may also indicate the early stages of dementia.
    What to do when you notice these early signs of dementia

    • Seek medical assessment: it’s important to seek professional evaluation; the signs of early dementia might be related to reversible and treatable causes.
    • Inform yourself about dementia: understanding how dementia affects someone helps both generations navigate the emotional, physical and functional issues associated with the condition. There are useful resources readily available online, through community support services or through your GP or specialist. Feel free to contact our team should you need advice or information about services available.
    • Act early to plan ahead and establish support structures: a diagnosis of dementia can be the start of a long and challenging journey – yet it’s a journey that you don’t have to travel on your own, or without support. Take advantage of the many support services available.
    • Prevention: There are positive steps you can take that can slow the progression of the diseases that cause dementia, including exercise, nutrition and social and mental engagement – taking action early on these things is important.  Also, moving early to open up the discussion with your parent about their wishes and preferences into the future can make a huge difference down the track.  Our team can inform and guide these important decisions, and if you wish, help you to establish a support structure appropriate to your family’s circumstances. 

    CarePilot is an online platform that makes it safer, smarter and simpler for Australians and their families to find, fund and manage care at home. Easy. If you would like to speak to a care manager regarding your parents current health situation and receive guidance on what preventive measures you can implement, CarePilot offers free over the phone support and advice. You can call CarePilot on 1300 108

    “CarePilot’s support is good for mum and me. Whilst I am away for work I have the confidence she is being well looked after.”

    Craig E.