What are the symptoms of Dementia?

In our previous post, How to Spot Early Onset Dementia, we looked at the tell-tale signs and symptoms experienced during the early development of dementia.

Dementia is a progressive condition meaning that symptoms will generally worsen over time. The symptoms will mostly still fit within the categories explained in our earlier article. However, in excess of these, and perpetuated by them, dementia can go on to cause the additional symptoms.

As dementia develops, these more pronounced difficulties and symptoms can become increasingly distressing for both the sufferer and their loved ones. It’s important to understand the progression of the condition, and seek appropriate support.

Symptoms of Progressing Dementia

As dementia progresses the following symptoms become more evident. Remember, not every dementia sufferer experiences identical difficulties.

  • Severe Memory Problems: An individual may not know who they are, where they are, or recognise previously familiar people.
  • Mobility Problems: The ability to walk or move can be impaired resulting in the need for a wheelchair.
  • Severe Communication Difficulties: An individual may lose the ability to speak. At these times we find non-verbal methods of communication can be useful and reassuring.
  • Behavioural Issues: Along with depression, the mood changes may now also include agitation, aggression and anxiety. It is important to remember this is a reflection of the condition, not the individual.
  • Continence Issues: In the late stages of dementia both bladder and bowel incontinence are possible.
  • Weight Loss: Difficulties eating and swallowing can cause weight loss later on in dementia.

How Dementia is Diagnosed

If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know then it is sensible to speak to your GP.

Diagnosis of dementia can be helpful as it enables a family to plan and prepare. However, it is also a very difficult time. A diagnosis opens up access to other support from healthcare professionals, support services, and understanding from those around you.

When an individual first visits their doctor about early dementia symptoms, the appointment will focus on discussing the noticed changes and the timescale over which these have been apparent. It is useful for a family member to be at this appointment.

At this stage, the GP will be looking to rule out other explanations for the symptoms such as medication side effects or depression. They are likely to organise blood tests as well as perform a memory test. They will also ask about the individual’s ability to manage everyday tasks.

The decision at this point may involve ‘watchful waiting’ to see how the symptoms progress. At some point, it is likely that someone with these symptoms will be referred to a dementia specialist, usually a psychiatrist, geriatrician or neurologist. This may occur at a clinic known as a ‘memory clinic’. Here further tests, such as MRI scans or more detailed memory tests, may be carried out.

At the point of diagnosis, it should be clearly explained to you, and someone like a family member who is accompanying you, what type of dementia you have as well as the effects this will likely bring in the future. They should also signpost you to further help and support in your local area.

Following diagnosis, your GP should regularly review you. You may decide, together with your healthcare professionals, that medication can be beneficial to minimise the impact of some symptoms.

How to Get Help with Dementia Symptoms

As we say, dementia is a progressive condition. It is important to seek help and support for someone suffering. You can find out more about dementia support services in your area here by entering your postcode.

Over time, it may not be possible for someone with dementia to remain safely at home or in independent living. At this stage, it is important to consider a specialist dementia care home. To see how a dementia care home is different and provides care for the unique needs of those with dementia, visit our CQC Outstanding Raleigh Mead home.