The Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia | The Good Care Group

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What are the early signs of dementia?

Early dementia symptoms will vary from person to person. They also differ depending on the type of dementia the person is living with. Ruling out other health conditions is important since many dementia symptoms are also the symptoms of other health conditions. For example, not being able to concentrate could be due to depression which is common in older people and confusion may be a side effect of medication.

Some memory changes are natural as people age and do not always indicate dementia. However, in dementia these symptoms will progress,gradually getting worse over time; the rate of this progression will be different for each person.

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 from long ago. They may frequently forget dates and where they have put things.

It may also cause them to be repetitive in their questions or statements as they may forget they have already asked the question. 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. They may have trouble remembering words or names.

Planning and organisation

Planning and organisation are also impacted in the early stages 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 present problems for people living with dementia. Many people who were previously quite organised may also suddenly find it difficult to plan or organise life events or retain new information.

Losing track of place or time

This can include a person forgetting where they are or how they got there. People may have trouble recalling seasons, dates or times. 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

One of the earliest signs of dementia is misplacing objects or losing things and forgetting where they were left. This can cause frustration which leads the person to accuse 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 irritated. 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 not participating in conversations with family and friends. They may also struggle to find the right word or forget the names of close friends or family members.

Symptoms specific to different types 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.

Learn more about the different types of dementia and their symptoms

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

Frontotemporal 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 frontotemporal dementia.

Common symptoms of frontotemporal 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 personalised 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.

How do early dementia symptoms progress?

For many people living with dementia, the middle stage of dementia is when their symptoms become more pronounced and begin to impact their everyday lives. This stage of dementia is the longest, and symptoms generally tend to progress in the following ways:

  • Existing memory and thinking problems progress: Memory loss and forgetfulness that characterise dementia progress further. Many people begin to find it harder to recognise family and friends or remember recent events. They may confuse loved ones with other people.
  • Loss of communication and language: People with mid-stage dementia may begin to lose the ability to find words, express their thoughts or follow conversations. Communicating in simple and short sentences can help facilitate communication.
  • Changes in mood and behaviour: Many people experience changes in mood and behaviour like apathy, depression, irritability or repetitive behaviours. Focusing on the underlying needs or wants that could be causing the behaviours can make a positive impact on daily life.
  • Leaving the house or becoming lost: Many people become restless during the middle stages of dementia, which can lead to them leaving the home unexpectedly during the day or night. These symptoms can be exacerbated by difficulty sleeping at night.
  • Daily care needs increase: A person living with mid-stage dementia may require more support with their everyday living and personal care routines. This loss of independence and privacy can be a difficult transition for many people and requires a patient and compassionate approach.
  • Problems with confusion and orientation: Confusion and disorientation can begin to impact everyday life significantly. People with mid-stage dementia may become confused about the day, time or where they are. Some people experience hallucinations and strongly believe things that aren’t true.

Diagnosing dementia

If you are worried about any signs or symptoms of dementia in yourself or a loved one, speak to your GP. They can refer you to a specialist clinic, often called a ‘memory assessment service’ or ‘memory clinic’, where you can get assessed by specialist clinicians.

Many of the early symptoms of dementia, like memory loss and confusion, can have causes other than dementia, including thyroid problems, urinary infections and certain medications. Many of these can be easily resolved, so it is important to get an expert opinion. A dementia diagnosis is usually made through a combination of a range of cognitive tests, an interview with the person and someone close to them, and a brain scan.

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

At The Good Care Group, we know receiving care in the comfort, safety and familiarity of home has far-reaching benefits in improving the health and well-being of people living with dementia. For over 10 years, we’ve helped countless families just like yours receive the dedicated dementia care they need in the place they love most – their own home.

Moving at any stage in life can be disruptive and stressful. For people living with dementia, the process of moving to a care home, away from their much-loved home full of treasured possessions and memories, can be incredibly distressing.

We know that staying at home and receiving compassionate, one-to-one care from a highly trained and well-matched carer improves quality of life and health outcomes for people living with dementia and their families

Our personalised 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 for live-in care.

Outstanding live-in care for those living with dementia

Our expert caregivers are dedicated to keeping your loved one safe and happy at home. All our caregivers complete an industry-leading dementia training programme endorsed by Age UK. They learn a range of best practice techniques proven to provide reassurance, reduce anxiety and calm behaviours. This compassionate approach reduces the need for the anti-psychotic medications which are used widely in care home settings.

We adopt a blended approach to our delivery of dementia care, called ‘EVER’, which is led and supported by our own consultant admiral nurse. This support from an admiral nurse means we can offer unrivalled levels of emotional and practical support to those living with dementia and their families.

Our specialist dementia care packages include:

  • Full assessment before care starts
  • Bespoke and flexible care plan developed with input from the family and other healthcare professionals
  • Social activities and lifestyle enhancement
  • Specialist support and expertise – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Matching the most suitable care team to meet the holistic needs of our clients
  • Dedicated care team led by an expert regional care manager
  • Meal planning and household tasks
  • Access to clinical expertise and medical support
  • Intervention and specialist support from our in-house Admiral Nurse

Learn more about our high-quality dementia care and meet our experts

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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