© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
September is World Alzheimer’s Month and in my second blog for the global awareness-raising campaign, I’d like to talk about the early signs of dementia.
As this year’s campaign highlights, identifying those early signs and accessing treatments early on gives the person the best chance of delaying or halting the disease.
It comes as no surprise that, amongst seniors, a diagnosis of dementia is feared far ahead of that of cancer or other illnesses. It is the most feared diagnosis of our time.
The rate of incidence is high. Dementia affects more than 50 million people worldwide, with a new case of dementia occurring somewhere in the world every 3 seconds.
In Australia an estimated 472,000 people live with a form of dementia, and an estimated 250 people are joining the population with dementia each day.
One should not fear these statistics – what will be, will be. What one needs to fear is failing to act early enough to give themselves good quality of life as they age.
Cast aside concerns about any stigma attached to a dementia diagnosis. Alzheimer’s International says that stigma is one of the greatest barriers to early diagnosis, early intervention and quality of life as we age.
Is it dementia?
The most common early signs of dementia are memory loss and difficulty performing familiar tasks. A listing of what to look out for is provided below.
Short-term memory loss is the most common early symptom. We all experience some forgetfulness at times – say the name of the movie you watched last night. It’s when you forget the context of the movie you are watching, where you saw it and its storyline – only then concern may be raised.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks
This may involve putting the kettle on but forgetting to put the water in before, mixing up the steps of using the television remote control or finding hair washing difficult to perform.
Problems with language
It is sometimes hard to find the right word but an early symptom of dementia is forgetting simple words and referring to them as “the thing” or “thingy”, and perhaps substituting them with unusual words.
Disorientation in time and place
A person with dementia can become lost in their diary or calendar dates - missing birthdays or calling on the wrong date or simply turning up any day at the GP’s surgery for their regular checks. They may stand on a nearby street corner and forget where they are, how they got there and how to make their way home.
Poor or decreased judgement
When it’s warm, a person with dementia may wear many layers and when it’s cool, not enough. They may also overlook wearing the same clothing all week.
Problems with concentration, planning or organising
Playing a simple game of cards, planning a visit to the hairdresser or barber, or paying bills can be difficult for someone living with dementia.
While we all misplace the house keys from time to time, a person with dementia may place things in unusual places, such as keys in the bathroom medical cabinet or the wallet behind the stereo.
Changes in mood or behaviour
Someone with dementia can experience rapid mood swings and irritability for no apparent reason, or they may be withdrawn and blankly stare into the distance. They may sleep or sit passively in front of the television most of the day.
Trouble with images or spatial relationships
Difficulties may arise with reading, judging distances, seeing objects in three dimensions and determining colour and contrast.
What to do if you suspect dementia
If you have been experiencing these symptoms or believe a relative or friend is experiencing those symptoms, organise a visit to the doctor to discuss your concerns. There is much support, resources and education available to assist the person living with dementia as well as their families (carers).
Dementia Activity Poster
For advice and assistance on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson, at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion.
 Alzheimer's Disease International: The Global Voice on Dementia
 Alzheimer's Society: Over Half of People Fear Dementia Diagnosis...
 2021 Dementia Australia Prevalence Data
 Alzheimer's Disease International: Summary of Symptoms of Dementia