According to Dementia Australia, there are an estimated 472,000 Australians living with dementia in 2021, and that number is only rising. Among Australians, it’s also the second leading cause of death. But what is it and what signs can you look out for?
Dementia is actually the name that describes the symptoms caused by neurological conditions rather than a specific disease itself. In this case, the brain is affected, interfering with everyday activities as well as thinking, behaviour and memory. Dementia has multiple causes, though, most of which are not inherited and many mistakenly assume that the symptoms are a normal part of the ageing process. However, while knowing about dementia is important—especially as yourself or your loved ones age—knowing how to spot the early signs is just as important. So, keep reading to discover more.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life and repetitive behaviour
Contrary to popular belief, memory loss may not be a normal part of ageing. The first question to ask is: it occasional or persistent? As well as: does this memory loss affect daily and familiar routines? While you may forget to serve the carrots you cooked for dinner, a person with dementia will forget they cooked the carrots to begin with. Repetitive behaviours are also a symptom. Oftentimes, people with dementia say or ask the same questions repeatedly. This may even mean repetitive movements as well.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks and social isolation
While you may go throughout your daily routine with no problem at all, a person with dementia may find it difficult to. They may struggle to put their clothes on or become confused over other ordered tasks like washing their hair or cooking a meal. Social isolation associated with dementia is also an issue. Many become isolated when facing their symptoms and stop seeking others out, including family and friends. That is why it is important to regularly seek contact and check up on them. It may also be caused by mood changes.
Confusion about time and place, and problems with abstract thinking
Confusion about what time it is and where they are is also a common sign. Familiar locations may become strange and being able to tell what the time is may become a challenge. Someone with dementia may not recognise their own street or how to get home. As one can imagine, this may cause a lot of frustration and should be treated with understanding. Loss of problem solving and abstract thinking skills are also a common sign. Many people with dementia start to find it hard to use numbers and lose the ability to come to conclusions.
Loss of initiative and poor or decreased judgement
A person with dementia is also likely to lose initiative, becoming passive and may start to require cues to become more involved. This may look like someone sitting in front of the television for hours on end or losing interest in hobbies they previously found enjoyment in. Poor or decreased judgement, on the other hand, may see them taking on involved tasks that require better memory and concentration. Activities such as driving require good judgement and quick reactions, skills that deteriorate in someone with dementia.
Language problems and other behavioural changes
While everyone has trouble finding the right words sometimes, a person with dementia may start to forget words all together. Along with other memory loss, their ability to convey what they want to say may start to weaken. In this case, it is especially important to listen carefully to them to ensure you understand their needs or wants. Alongside of these symptoms, other behavioural changes are also seen. However, this is very individualised. Someone with dementia may have rapid mood swings and cry for no apparent reason, while another may become more outgoing than they ever were previously.
It is important to understand these signs and look out for your loved ones. For more information on dementia and the different types, symptoms and for other resources, head to Dementia Australia. Or if you are seeking services for someone with dementia, call Greenleaf Consultancy on 0412 947 432 or head to our needing services page.