Belfast Telegraph

10 common dementia symptoms: Spotting the difference between a dementia and forgetfulness

If you have one or more of the following 10 symptoms which you are concerned about or which are affecting your daily life, it’s a good idea to visit your GP.

Evelyn and Jean feature in the #STILLME campaign, which raises awareness of the signs of dementia and reduce stigma and fear about the condition
Evelyn and Jean feature in the #STILLME campaign, which raises awareness of the signs of dementia and reduce stigma and fear about the condition

We all get a bit forgetful sometimes, whether it’s forgetting someone’s name when we meet in the street, what day of the week it is, where we put our keys or where we left the newspaper.

However, at what point should we start becoming concerned?

Dementia is a progressive condition and people are not always sure of the differences between natural ageing and dementia.

Memory often changes as we grow older. But memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of ageing. It may be a symptom of dementia. Dementia is not a part of natural ageing, and memory loss may not be the only symptom.

If one or more of the following symptoms are causing you concern or affecting your daily life, it’s a good idea to visit your GP. There are other conditions which can have similar symptoms, so it is important to find out what might be causing them.

Someone with dementia may experience:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as forgetting recent events, important dates or events, constant repetition and needing to rely on memory aids
  • Difficulty in planning or solving problems, for example finding it hard to keep track of monthly bills or follow a family recipe. Certain tasks may also take a bit longer due to lack of concentration
  • Difficulty in completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure including driving to a familiar place, managing a budget or remembering the rules to a favourite game
  • Changes in mood – becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. This may cause them to be upset and react unusually to friends or in places where they are not comfortable
  • Confusion with time or place – struggling to understand something being planned in the future, or being confused about where they are
  • Trouble understanding what is being seen – vision  problems are often associated with dementia. There may be difficulty in reading, judging distance and determining colour or contrast
  • Problems with words in speaking or writing, often stopping in the middle of a conversation and finding it difficult to resume. Struggling to find the right word or term, for example, a watch may be referred to a ‘hand clock’
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps, putting things in unusual places which can result in them feeling suspicious of others
  • Decreased or poor judgement, for example when dealing with money, or paying less attention to their personal appearance
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities as they may feel embarrassed of the changes they are experiencing, such as being unable to follow conversations or possibly making mistakes in the company of others. Often this can result in isolation

So what are more typical age-related changes we might experience in later life?

  • Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later
  • Making occasional errors with money or planning the day ahead
  • Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show
  • Feeling a little down sometimes or not liking to have a long-term routine changed
  • Getting confused about the day of the week, but figuring it out later
  • Vision changes related to ageing, such as developing long-sightedness or cataracts
  • Sometimes having trouble finding the right word
  • Misplacing things from time to time, but being able to find them later
  • Making a bad decision once in a while
  • Sometimes being reluctant to go out just as much, but still being socially active

Find out more:

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