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Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to progressive cognitive decline that is severe enough to affect daily activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form, however there are other types, including vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Risk of developing dementia increases with age. According to Statistics Canada, it affects 0.8% of Canadians aged 65-69, increasing to 5.9% for those aged 75-79, and 24.6% if over 85.
Getting an early diagnosis for dementia is key. It allows other conditions with similar symptoms to be ruled out or treated. It enables your loved one to take a more active role in their healthcare decisions and future plans. And it can make treatments such as medications and alternative therapies more effective.
To help you help your loved one get an early diagnosis, we’ve put together six early signs of dementia to look out for.
1. Memory loss
Nearly 40% of us will experience some form of memory loss after the age of 65, and this is usually nothing to worry about. However, if your loved one is forgetting things more often than usual or struggling to retain new information, it could be a sign of dementia. People with dementia can also have difficulty remembering words or finding the right word to express what they want to say, making them hard to understand.
2. Difficulty performing routine tasks
Struggling to complete familiar tasks such as getting dressed, preparing meals, or playing a game can be a sign of dementia. If you notice your loved one is having difficulty with routine activities, it could be a sign to visit their doctor to get a dementia assessment.
3. Getting disoriented
Getting lost or occasionally forgetting what day it is are both normal. However, if your loved one gets lost in familiar places, such as on their own street, or regularly gets confused about what day or time it is, it could be a sign of dementia.
4. Carrying out risky behaviours
Dementia can affect a person's judgement and decision-making skills, causing them to do things that put their health and safety at risk. This can include things such as running out into a busy road or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.
5. Putting items in the wrong place
Misplacing things such as wallets and keys is a normal – albeit annoying – part of life. However, a person with dementia may often put things in inappropriate places. For example, they may leave their gloves in the freezer or their watch in the food cupboard.
6. Changes in mood and personality
Have you noticed your loved one having more extreme mood swings than usual? Such as getting very upset or angry for no apparent reason. If so, this could be a sign of dementia. Personality changes can also be a symptom, for example if someone becomes more suspicious, confused, scared, or withdrawn than they used to be.
If you notice changes in your loved one, it can be tempting to ignore them rather than face the possibility that it could be dementia. However, getting an early diagnosis will empower you and your loved one to take control of the situation, get started on a treatment plan, and prepare for the future.
The information presented in this blog post is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information in this post as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for professional counseling care. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.