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What are the early signs of dementia?

The early signs of dementia will vary and be different for each person. They will also differ depending on what dementia the person is living with. It is also important to understand when you or your loved one experiences the symptoms that you rule out other health conditions. As an example, not being able to concentrate could be because of depression which is common in older people and not the early signs of dementia.
Also being confused may be a side effect of taking medication. Some memory changes are natural as people age however, symptoms of early dementia will progress and gradually get worse over time if you are living with the condition.
The rate of this progression will be different for each person. So, what are the early signs of dementia?

Memory loss

Memory loss is the most common early sign of dementia. A person will find it increasingly difficult to remember recent events but will still be able to remember events of long ago. They may frequently forget dates and where they have put things.

It may also cause them to be repetitive in asking for things or for information as they forget what they have asked for. Getting lost or feeling lost in familiar surroundings are common ways dementia affects memory.

The person may also find it difficult to concentrate or follow conversations as they forget what has been said.

Planning and organisation

Planning and organisation is also impacted in the early signs of dementia. This could include difficulties completing tasks and day-to-day activities that had been familiar, such as going to the shops or to work.

Numbers may also present problems for people living with the early signs of dementia who may find number organisation difficult, for example paying a bill. Planning life may also prove a challenge that results in a person, who is usually organised, being unnaturally disorganised.

Losing track of place or time

This can include a person with the early signs of dementia forgetting where they are or how they got there. The environment may present problems and lack of understanding of seasons, or dates or time. It is common for those in the early stages of dementia to not know the day of the week, or time of the day.

Losing things

This is common in a person who is living with the early signs of dementia. Losing things and forgetting where they were left. This can cause frustration which may mean the person accuses others of moving objects or taking things.

Poor judgement

Increasing levels of poor judgement are experienced by a person with the early signs of dementia. This may also include paying less attention to how they look, their personal hygiene and grooming.

Changes in mood and personality

A person may become low in mood and easily get upset, sometimes aggressive about even the smallest things. They may withdraw from work and/ or social activities and be less engaged with family and friends. They may also struggle with motivation.

Visual problems

The early signs of dementia include problems with vision including judging colour and/or contrast, difficulties reading something or problems with judging distance.

Problems with speech

A person may find it difficult to follow a conversation and this may result in them from not joining a conversation. They may also struggle to find the right word or forget the names of close friends or family members.

What are the early signs of dementia?

Most dementias have specific symptoms that can help you to distinguish between the different types. Although the symptoms associated with each type of dementia are common, be aware that every dementia is different and symptoms may vary from person to person.

Symptoms specific to Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the UK. Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Memory problems, including difficulty remembering recent events
  • Asking questions repetitively
  • Difficulty recognising people or objects
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Slow, muddled or repetitive speech
  • Withdrawal from family and friends

Symptoms specific to vascular dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia in the UK. The signs and symptoms of vascular dementia depend on which area of the brain has been affected. Symptoms of vascular dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s disease, although memory loss may not be as obvious in the early stages.

Common symptoms of vascular dementia include:

  • Stroke-like symptoms such as muscle weakness or temporary paralysis on one side of the body. These symptoms require immediate medical attention
  • Difficulty walking and keeping balance
  • Problems with planning, understanding and concentration
  • Changes in mood, personality or behaviour

Symptoms specific to fronto-temporal dementia

Fronto-temporal dementia is an uncommon form of dementia that affects the front and sides of the brain (the frontal and temporal lobes). In the UK, around 2% of all dementia diagnoses are of fronto-temporal dementia.

Common symptoms of fronto-temporal dementia include:

  • Personality and behavioural changes
  • A lack of social awareness
  • Language problems
  • Repetitive, compulsive behaviour such as tapping or clapping

Symptoms specific to Lewy body dementia

Lewy body dementia is a disease associated with abnormal deposits of proteins in the brain. Dementia with Lewy bodies has many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Recurring visual hallucinations
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Communication problems
  • Repeated falls and fainting
  • Becoming slower in their physical movements

Home is best for those living with dementia in the early stages

We know receiving care in the comfort, safety and familiarity of your own home has far reaching benefits in improving overall health and well-being for a person living with the early signs of dementia. Moving at any stage in life can be disruptive and stressful. When an individual is living with dementia the process of moving to a care home, away from their much-loved home full of its treasured possessions and memories can be really heart-wrenching and daunting, affecting their ability to live well with dementia. We know that staying at home and receiving compassionate, one-to-one care from a highly trained and well-matched professional carer improves quality of life and health outcomes for an individual living with dementia. Our personalized approach to providing high-quality live-in care for a person living with dementia, with a fully managed and flexible service that families can rely on is setting the standards in live-in care.

Outstanding live-in care for those living with dementia

We have been innovating dementia care for over 10 years. All our professional carers are trained in how to care for someone living with the early signs of dementia and use a range of best practice techniques proven to provide reassurance, reduce anxiety and calm behaviours, whilst reducing the need to use antipsychotic drugs used widely in many care home settings. This means the person with dementia can live well, despite the challenges dementia can present with the gentle encouragement and compassionate care provided by our dementia carers. The high-quality care provided by our carers has seen a 66% reduction in the use of antipsychotic medications compared with the average care home.

Our collaborative approach to working with leading medical experts, academic bodies and leading charities ensure our care is of the very highest standards. Our work with the Contented Dementia Trust to introduce the SPECAL approach to dementia care helps us to understand and discover what is important to the person living with dementia, enabling us to develop a purposeful and meaningful programme of care.

We adopt a blended approach to delivery of dementia care, led and supported by our own Consultant Admiral Nurse. The support from an Admiral Nurse, working with leading dementia charity, Dementia UK means we can offer unrivalled levels of emotional and practical support based on best practice dementia care to those living with dementia and their families.

All our professional carers are trained in the SPECAL approach to dementia care and our management team complete a higher-level dementia care training programme. It does not stop there. Our care teams receive on-going coaching, mentoring and support based on latest thinking and research that ensure they have the knowledge, skills and aptitude to deliver positive dementia care.

Dementia live-in care, short term care or respite care

We provide specialist dementia care at home for those living with the early stages of dementia, as either 24-hour live-in care, as a short term care arrangement or as respite care.

With a full time, live-in care arrangement a professional carer will live with you in your home providing around the clock care and support, focused on improving your health and well-being, whilst enhancing the quality of your life. There are many benefits of 24 hour care, not least that the carer will truly get to know you as a person, not just your care needs but they will be on hand to support you to live life the way you wish, with as much independence as possible.

Respite care or a short term arrangement provides an opportunity for a family carer to take a much needed break from caring for someone living with the early signs of dementia, or for you to try live-in care for the first time to see how live-in care works and whether it is the right choice for you in the future.

Useful resources

To support you and your family we have created a useful Dementia Care Guide which provides you with information and advice on how to provide person-centred dementia care following a diagnosis of dementia. There is also a number of dementia charities across the UK who provide families with help, advice and support when they need it most, including Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society.

The NHS has a useful living well with dementia guide that provides practical tips and guidance so people living with dementia can live a fulfilling life.

View more about our dementia care services

Talk to us about your dementia care needs

Our friendly and experienced team is here to help you and your family make sense of the options available to you. Call us today – we will help you every step of the way.

0203 728 7577

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Content reviewed by Dr Jane Pritchard 22 November 2022

Dr Jane Pritchard is a consultant Admiral Nurse who specialises in the care and support of those living with dementia. She is a registered nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Council specialising in mental health. She has over 20 years' experience working in care and has authored several publications on dementia care.

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