Dementia is one of the most rapidly increasing health conditions in the UK. One in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, and one in six people over 80.
There are several types of dementia with Alzheimer’s being the best known. However, the symptoms are broadly the same.
Your loved one might be having problems with:
- difficulty doing daily activities
- mental sharpness, concentration, and understanding
- language, such as struggling to find the right words
- managing their usual behaviour
Often, the symptoms are mild to begin with and worsen over time. We’ve put together this article to help you understand the importance of a dementia diagnosis, what happens after a diagnosis, and how we can help.
Dementia symptoms versus normal ageing
Many older adults worry about their memory and thinking abilities. For example, they might be concerned about taking longer than before to learn new things, or they may sometimes forget to pay a bill. These changes are often signs of mild forgetfulness— a normal part of aging—not serious memory problems.
It’s normal to forget things every once in a while. However, a serious memory problem makes it difficult to do common everyday tasks, such as driving, finding your way home, or taking care of your personal hygiene.
It’s important to speak with your doctor if you’re having cognitive problems, for example, the ability to think clearly. Signs you or your loved one might need to speak with a doctor include:
- Asking the same questions over and over again.
- Getting lost in places the person knows well.
- Having trouble following simple directions and/or conversations.
- Becoming more confused about time, people, and places.
- Not taking care of oneself, for example, eating poorly, not bathing, or behaving unsafely.
In case it’s helpful, we’ve put together this comparison table to show the differences between dementia symptoms and normal ageing. Note that this should not replace a conversation with your doctor.
|Normal ageing||Signs of dementia|
|Make a bad decision every once in a while.||Make poor judgments and decisions a lot of the time.|
|Missing a monthly payment or forgetting to pay one bill.||Ongoing problems remembering to pay monthly bills.|
|Sometimes forget what word you need to use.||Having trouble being a part of a full conversation.|
|Losing things from time to time.||Misplacing things often and being unable to find them.|
How to diagnose dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A dementia diagnosis begins with a visit to your GP. If your GP suspects any serious memory issues, they might perform various tests, such as:
- physical examinations
- blood tests
- memory tests
After these, if your doctor is still concerned, they are likely to refer you to a specialist. The specialist you see might be:
- a psychiatrist (usually called an old age psychiatrist)
- an elderly care physician (sometimes called a geriatrician)
- a neurologist (an expert in treating conditions that affect the brain and nervous system)
There’s no one simple test for diagnosing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The specialists will listen to the concerns of both you and your family about your memory, behaviour, or thinking.
They’ll assess your memory and other areas of mental ability and, if necessary, arrange more tests to rule out other conditions. These include mental tests, such as:
- short- and long-term memory
- concentration and attention span
- language and communication skills
- awareness of time and place (orientation)
- abilities related to vision (visuospatial abilities)
To rule out other possible causes of your symptoms and look for possible signs of damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, your specialist may recommend having a brain scan.
Does dementia need to be diagnosed?
Getting a dementia diagnosis can give you or your loved one a better understanding of the condition and what to expect. A timely dementia diagnosis can help you make important decisions about treatment, support, and care.
Understandably, receiving a dementia diagnosis can be distressing for the person and their family. However, receiving an early diagnosis of dementia, as opposed to a later diagnosis, is a positive thing. Most importantly it enables a programme of care to be established that can enhance a person’s overall wellbeing.
Early diagnosis also allows:
- quicker access to treatment options
- opportunities to participate in clinical trials
- a chance to prioritise your health
- more time to plan for the future
Diagnosing dementia is important. It makes sure people can get the right support and treatment plans for the future, and develop strategies to live well with dementia. This might include things like taking up new hobbies, attending a support group or taking part in research.
What happens after a dementia diagnosis?
A dementia diagnosis is life-changing for those diagnosed, as well as for their families and others close to them. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for dementia, but treatments are available that may help relieve some symptoms. Those with dementia may progress through the stages of the disease at different speeds and with varying symptoms.
Once diagnosed, patients experience a wave of emotions and numbness may set in as individuals are unsure of what to do or how to deal with the overwhelming news.
There are several things you can do, including:
- getting assessed for care and support
- chatting to charities such as Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, and Dementia UK that provide a range of services, including helplines, support groups, day centres, and shopping services
- make sure all your important papers can be found easily
- consider a dementia live-in care service
How Mumby’s can help a loved one with a dementia diagnosis
At Mumby’s, we believe that live-in dementia care is the best and safest care. Mumby’s skilled live-in carers offer outstanding dementia care in your home. They provide the continuity of care and support needed to help you to live independently and continue your familiar routines in the comfort of your own home.
Live-in care allows your loved one to continue to enjoy living at home. In the comfort of their own surroundings, they keep all their belongings with precious and comforting memories. In addition, they carry on with their own routines, including getting up and having breakfast when they want, enjoying their favourite pastimes, and seeing their friends and family as and when they desire.