Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. It is an illness that affects the brain and leads to a decline in the brain's ability to work properly. Dementia affects memory, judgement, language, planning and behaviour.
Dementia can happen to anyone but it is more common among older adults over the age of 65. There is no cure for dementia but there are treatments available to manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the illness. Spotting the warning signals and getting the right help quickly can make a positive difference to the life of a dementia patient and his/her family.
Here are ten warning signals to watch out for. Remember we all may experience similar situations from time to time. The difference with dementia is that the behaviours described below will affect the patient's ability to live and function safely and independently and progressively get worse.
Persons with dementia often forget things they have just been told or done. They may not remember things such as if they took their lunch or what day of the week it is as well as names and important dates. They may ask a question repeatedly because they forget that you have given them the answer. This kind of memory loss makes it hard for them to function independently on their own.
Persons with dementia may not know how to do simple routine tasks such as brushing teeth, washing clothes or preparing meals. They may have difficulty working out the right order to do things. For example, they may iron dirty clothes before washing them.
Persons with dementia could have difficulty knowing how to get to the market or the community centre that they used to frequent. They can become lost and confused about how to get around their own neighbourhood. They may get morning, afternoon and night mixed up. For example, they might want their breakfast in the evening and get ready for bed in the afternoon.
Problems finding the right words for everyday objects is a sign of dementia in its early stages. Persons with dementia may forget simple words like comb and replace it with an unusual word or phrase like the thing you use on your hair.
We may make the occassional mistakes balancing our accounts, but dementia affects the ability to understand abstract ideas and solve problems. For example, a person with dementia might not understand that he needs to pay for items. Reading the newspaper may become difficult as ideas and concepts become harder to understand.
Sometimes we may make bad decisions but dementia affects the ability to reason and make simple judgement. Persons with dementia may show poor judgment about money and give away large amounts of money to strangers, buy more food than they can eat or wear the wrong type of clothing for the activities they are doing.
Related: How to Communicate with a Loved One with Dementia
Persons with dementia may put things in unusual places such as placing the key in the refrigerator, the watch inside the rice cooker or keeping the purse in the bathroom. They often do not know where they put such items and become suspicious believing that someone has taken them.
It is normal to be sad or moody from time to time, but persons with dementia can exhibit rapid mood swings - from calm to tears to anger, for no apparent reason. One moment, you may be sharing a joke with a person with dementia, the next moment he/she could be angry and tearful.
Our personalities undergo slight changes as we age. Persons with dementia can show dramatic changes and become suspicious, withdrawn and distrustful of family and friends that he/she was once close to.
Persons with dementia lose interest in the world around them and being a part of that world. They may give up a favourite activity or pastime like playing mahjong or tai chi or meeting with friends for lunch or even cooking their favourite meals. They also start to sleep more often during the day or sit for long periods doing nothing.
If you observe some or all of the above signals on a regular basis in yourself or in a loved one, please consult a memory clinic at the hospital. There could be a variety of reasons that cause some of these signs other than dementia. Some of these include depression or hormone disorders which can be treated.
Early treatment for dementia has many positive benefits for the patients and their families.
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This article was last reviewed on
Monday, November 18, 2019
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