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Recognising signs of dementia

Dementia is much in the news now. But can we differentiate between failing memory that besets the elderly and the busy, and true dementia?

Looking at the lists of early symptoms of dementia that are being publicised, it would be easy to have a three-step reaction.

  1. OMG that’s me. Panic!
  2. If only we had known about this six years ago we could have identified what was happening to mum/dad much earlier and we could have done something about it.
  3. No, it would have made no difference.

Have you seen the list of signs to look out for? They’re reported by BBC Health as:

  • Struggling to remember recent events
  • Problems following conversations
  • Forgetting the names of friends or objects
  • Repeating yourself
  • Problems with thinking or reasoning
  • Confusion in familiar places

The problem with this sort of list is that most of us in midlife can identify with these symptoms ourselves, never mind recognise them in our parents. We lead busy lives with a zillion things to remember, and it’s hardly surprising if we constantly forget stuff. It would be very easy to see most of these signs in our parents and put it down to a long life.

Perhaps the most telling point in the list is the confusion with familiar places. If your parent has reported getting into town or the end of the road and then suffering a momentary lapse in working out where they are, that might possibly require further investigation.

At the moment though, it seems pretty difficult for us as lay people or even some GPs to be anything near certain if we are looking dementia in the eye or not. It’s tempting to wait and see. On the other hand, we’re told early diagnosis can make a difference. Dementia can’t be fixed but it can be treated with drugs to delay some of its effects.

With that in mind, signing up with the Dementia Friends scheme, backed by the Alzheimer’s Society, could help us identify early dementia without panicking about every forgotten name and repeated conversation.

Have you worried that your parent is showing signs of dementia? Let us know with a comment below.

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