What is Dementia, and What Are the Most Common Symptoms?

What is Dementia, and What Are the Most Common Symptoms?

At Eastleigh we are proud to be cutting-edge providers of dementia care in the South-West. However, there is a great deal of confusion surrounding understanding dementia, and recognising and supporting the most common symptoms of dementia.

Dementia Statistics

Since just last year, dementia is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales. There are over 850,000 individuals in the UK with dementia. This number is rapidly increasing due to our aging population. Indeed, 70% of residents in care homes have either dementia or severe memory problems, so it is essential that we take understanding dementia seriously, and work to create the best support for this condition.

What is Dementia?

In reality, dementia is not one single condition. It is an umbrella term for a range of conditions, although Alzheimer’s is the most common, affecting 62% of those diagnosed with dementia. You may also have heard of Vascular Dementia, Mixed Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Frontotemporal Dementia. These all fall under the collective description of dementia. Typically, their symptoms ultimately become very similar to each other, and so the common symptoms of dementia apply to all of these types.

This is why it is important to understand the common symptoms of dementia, as they collectively come together to define dementia itself.

The Common Symptoms of Dementia

There are a set of symptoms that are the most common for dementia. These include cognitive and memory difficulties (and loss). In most instances, the symptoms come about gradually, over time, making it difficult for individuals and loved ones to pin down the start of the disease, or even notice when things have become more severe. Ultimately, the symptoms of dementia will cause difficulties in daily living, and this can be the time that you seek the help of professionals in dementia care, such as Eastleigh.

Although there are common symptoms to dementia, it is important to remember that each individual with dementia is as unique as each individual with another condition. Therefore, whilst these are the common symptoms of dementia crucial to our understanding of dementia, there may be variations in individual cases. This is particularly true in the early stages of the condition. Individuals with dementia also experience improvements and worsening of their symptoms according to stressors and their environment, which is why the correct care for dementia patients is essential. However, these are the most common symptoms of dementia:

  • Memory Problems: The most common memory problems with dementia are to do with the short-term memory, and processing. This means that an individual with dementia can struggle with planning and carrying out everyday tasks, or following a usual routine or process. We also see problems with remembering facts, and particularly dates.
  • Executive Functioning Problems: Many people with dementia have difficulty with their executive functioning – this means planning and organising, as well as maintaining concentration. This can make decision-making problematic. This may also include problems with orientation – knowing where they are.
  • Language Problems: It is common for dementia to cause language problems, usually evidenced with an individual struggling to find the right word.
  • Visual-Spatial Problems: These symptoms include difficulties in judging space and distance, and how an individual sees things. This is evidenced in dementia patients being particularly prone to falls, even in seemingly ‘safe’ environments.
  • Mood Changes: It is not uncommon for someone with dementia to display extreme changes in their mood, which are more exacerbated than in their ‘old self’, or even completely out of character. Frustration, irritability, depression and anxiety symptoms, anger, and deep sadness are all unfortunately symptoms of the condition. Ensuring you have carers who understand this is essential

All forms of dementia are, by their nature, progressive. This means the symptoms can be expected to worsen over time. However, the speed at which this happens varies from individual to individual, and according to the type of dementia.

In the later stages of dementia we tend to see other common symptoms develop. Unlike the earlier symptoms, in the later stages we see more physical effects of the disease such as weight loss and weakness, as well as fatigue and sleep problems.

Those at Risk of Dementia

Dementia, most typically, affects the elderly. It is very unusual in someone under 65. Over the age of 65, one in 14 people have dementia. As someone ages, the risk of dementia increases. However, beyond the risk factor of age, there are some other factors which increase the risk of developing the condition, including hereditary factors, heart conditions, and lifestyle factors that cause narrowing of the arteries - but there is still more research which needs to be done.

What is important is that if you think you, or someone close to you, is showing the signs of dementia, that you arrange for a proper assessment via your GP. The need for this is two-fold: the symptoms may in fact be being caused by a different condition, such as a UTI or other infection; and because support and treatment is important for ensuring the best quality of life for someone who does have dementia.

The Future for Someone with Dementia

Dementia cannot be cured, and much more research is needed given its prevalence. At the moment, treatment largely consists of minimising the impact of the symptoms on the quality of life the individual experiences. This means care and support is central to treatment of people with dementia.

The right care and support includes various approaches including reminiscence therapy, psychological therapies for dealing with secondary diagnoses such as depression, and various strategies in living environment. For this reason, it can be helpful and reassuring to use a specialist dementia care home.

In a nurturing and supportive home-from-home environment, specialist dementia care allows the individual to feel safe, and valued.

Eastleigh Specialist Dementia Care

At Eastleigh we specialise in dementia care, and make a valuable and vast contribution to those living with the condition. Through careful home management, inspired management and specialist staff, combined with leading strategies such as phased lighting, we are at the forefront of dementia residential care.

To find out more about our specialist dementia care, call us in confidence on 01769 573166.