What are the early signs of dementia and how can it be treated? | The Sun02/17/2023
AROUND 55million people are currently living with dementia worldwide.
It's one of the leading causes of death globally, with the condition being painful for the sufferer and those around them.
By 2030, over 78million people are expected to have the condition, with this rising to 139 by 2050, the World Health Organisation (WHO) states.
But how can you spot the early warning signs of the condition and how can it be treated?
Dementia is a condition that refers to a group of disorders affecting brain functioning – and there are many different types and causes.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form, affecting between 50 and 75 per cent of those diagnosed.
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It tends to be associated with the elderly, but there are over 3.9 million people under 65 with dementia in the world.
According to the WHO, women are significantly more likely than men to develop dementia.
In fact, women over 60 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as they are to develop breast cancer.
There's no cure for any type of dementia, but delaying the onset by five years would halve the number of deaths from the condition, according to Alzheimer's UK.
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To pick it up early, it's important to know what to look out for.
Luca Rado, the co-founder of Helpd Ltd – specialists in live-in home care, has shared how to spot the 8 early signs of dementia.
1. Short term memory
A typical early sign of dementia is experiencing short term memory loss.
One of the most common signs is misplacing essential items such as keys or forgetting what you had for breakfast that morning.
These day to day occurrences can often be an early indicator, particularly if they are a recurring problem.
2. Mood swings
A significant shift in mood or character is another early sign of dementia.
This is a change that sufferers are often unable to detect in themselves but is an indicator that family members can usually pick up on.
As dementia affects judgement and self-awareness, how an individual thinks they are acting or how they see themselves is less of a consideration.
Apathy, in this sense, is another change to look out for.
3. Loss of interest
Another early sign of dementia is a general loss of interest in day-to-day activities and hobbies that were previously enjoyed.
This is often because dementia affects thought and memory and so the individual may not even consider partaking in the hobby, simply because the thought to do it is no longer there.
How is dementia treated?
There is no specific treatment for dementia and no way to reverse the damage to the brain that has already occurred.
However, treatment may help slow down the progression of the condition and the main aim is to treat the underlying cause to help prevent further problems, such as strokes.
Medicines and lifestyle changes will be encouraged including eating healthily, losing weight if necessary, stop smoking, get fit and cutting down on alcohol.
Support such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy is also beneficial, but despite treatment dementia can significantly shorten life expectancy.
The average survival time from diagnosis is around four years and most people will die either from complications of dementia, such as pneumonia, or from a subsequent stroke.
4. Lack of focus
Feeling disorientated is another early sign of the condition.
Lacking focus and feeling out of sorts can sometimes be a sign of ageing but it is important to be mindful of how this affects day-to-day activities.
If disorientation occurs frequently and begins to cause distress, it is likely to be a sign of dementia and may be worth consulting a medical professional.
5. Rash decisions
Situations, where quick decisions are second nature, can become a struggle for those who are suffering from dementia.
Any unusual, rash actions that are out of character and a potential cause for concern are typical for those with dementia.
An example of this would be deciding to take essential belongings to a charity shop or wearing clothing that is inappropriate for the weather.
Poor judgement also encompasses spatial awareness, and therefore clumsiness.
6. Losing sense of direction
If a loved one suddenly struggles to remember familiar routes, this could be a cause for concern.
Forgetting simple directions or routes to familiar places is a common symptom of dementia and should be monitored, as it can often lead to sufferers getting lost or ending up in dangerous places.
7. Getting confused
Another sign of dementia is difficulty in communicating thoughts and emotions.
Someone with dementia may get confused with wording and struggle to express their point of view naturally and this is because dementia affects communication and language.
Skills such as word formation and memory are slowly affected over time and should be discussed with a medical professional if these symptoms start to worsen.
8. Familiar tasks becoming challenging
Simple and familiar tasks like making a cup of tea or locking a door can become challenging for those suffering from dementia as brain function and cognitive activity start to deteriorate.
This can occur suddenly or over time and leads to simple tasks or basic routine unexpectedly requiring a lot of thought and energy.
The risk of dementia can accumulate over a lifetime and is partly driven by genetics which are not possible to change.
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A study found that exercise, completing household chores, and visiting family and friends are good ways to reduce your risk of dementia.
Flossing regularly alongside brushing can help ward off your chances of developing dementia, another study suggested.
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