“I’m worried that my family member may be developing dementia”

27/02/19

The moment when a person or their family first notice changes that could indicate the development of a type of dementia is always an extremely worrying time for everyone. We understand how frightening this can be, and want to help you feel more informed at a time when you may be feeling overwhelmed as a family member goes through the diagnostic process.

Some facts about dementia

  • There are estimated to be 850,000 people with dementia in the UK. This figure is predicted to rise to over 1 million by 2025
  • One person develops dementia every three minutes
  • 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia
  • There are over 40,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK. This is known as young onset dementia. More information about young onset dementia here: www.youngdementiauk.org
  • More than 25,000 people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the UK have dementia
  • Dementia disproportionally affects women – 65% of people living with dementia in the UK are women, and dementia is the leading cause of death amongst women
  • Current treatments are limited and only suitable for certain types of dementia

Find out more dementia statistics here: www.dementiastatistics.org


What are the symptoms of dementia?
The symptoms of dementia are numerous and varied. The list below (which is in no particular order) includes some of the common symptoms, but remember that your family member is unlikely to have every symptom, and that many of these symptoms are also associated with other conditions.

  • Problems with memory, including confusion and forgetting conversations or the names of people or places
  • Difficulties with communication, including speech, language and understanding
  • Repetitive conversation, where the person may ask the same questions constantly, or a compulsion to do things like walking constantly even when the person is too tired to do this safely
  • Being disorientated, including getting lost when in otherwise familiar places or mixing up the time of day
  • Changes in personality, mood and behaviour
  • Loss of initiative, meaning that the person may not want to follow hobbies or interests they’ve previously enjoyed
  • Problems keeping track of things, for example missing appointments or misplacing personal items like glasses, or difficulty concentrating on a hobby or TV programme
  • Poor judgement, including not recognising dangers when driving, crossing the road or cooking 
  • Problems with perception which may make the person paranoid or delusional
  • Sleep disturbances and hallucinations
  • Difficulties with learning something new, like a new appliance
  • Problems with visual perception, meaning that the person may hesitate at doorways, pavement curbs or when floor coverings change
  • Physical changes – the person may lose weight, having difficulty swallowing food (Dysphagia), have changes in their continence, mobility problems or increased falls/accidents.

Getting a diagnosis
If you notice that a family member is experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, the first step would be to support them to make an appointment with their GP. The GP may conduct a basic memory test, and depending on the results may recommend further investigations, usually by referring the person to their local memory clinic. The GP may also do blood tests (to rule out other conditions, like infections) and request a brain scan.

At a memory clinic appointment, a full history may be documented to chart the person’s health and events/examples that have prompted concerns about dementia, further memory tests are often conducted and the results of blood tests and scans should be available. Further scans or investigations may be requested if there isn’t enough information to make a diagnosis.

If the person is under 65 years old, or has a complex medical history, it may take longer for a diagnosis to be made. Often it’s helpful for someone who knows the person well to accompany them to their appointment.

The outcome of tests may be a diagnosis of one of the types of dementia listed here, a diagnosis of ‘Mild Cognitive Impairment’ (MCI), or a diagnosis of a condition with similar symptoms to dementia, including depression.


How can live-in care or nursing help?
If a member of your family is undergoing investigations for suspected dementia, or has been diagnosed with any type of dementia, Consultus is fully aware of how this can impact the extended family. Our skilled live-in carers and nurses offer expert care assistance 24/7 to help people at all stages of dementia.

Call us on 01732 355 231 to speak to one of our Care Consultants, or email care@consultuscare.com to find out more about your options for care and support now, or to understand what care and support may be needed for your family in the future.

With thanks to Beth Britton for her support in authoring this page. Beth is a leading campaigner, consultant, writer and blogger whose father had vascular dementia for 19 years. Beth is also a Skills for Care Endorsed Training Provider. More information on Beth’s website: www.bethbritton.com

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