If someone you know is becoming increasingly forgetful, you should encourage them to see their GP to talk about the early signs of dementia.
Dementia is a syndrome (group of related symptoms) that indicate problems with the brain. One of the most common symptoms is memory loss. While there are other reasons someone might be experiencing memory loss, if dementia is detected early, in some cases its development can be slowed and the person affected may maintain their mental function.
Be aware of the signs of dementia
Memory loss is one of the key symptoms, but others include:
- increasing difficulty with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning
- changes in personality and mood
- periods of mental confusion
- difficulty finding the right words
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should be encouraged to see their GP as soon as possible. Dementia is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that other conditions will be ruled out before a dementia diagnosis is made. A GP will run a series of tests and assessments to do this. They may also need to be given a history of the problems experienced. Read more about the symptoms of dementia and related diseases, and how dementia is diagnosed.
Talking to someone about dementia
Raising the issue of memory loss and the possibility of dementia can be a difficult thing to do. The person experiencing the symptoms may be confused, worried or in denial. The Alzheimer’s Society suggests the following steps to start someone talking when you’re worried about their memory:
- Have the conversation in a familiar, non-threatening environment.
- Explain why talking is important and say that you’re worried because you care.
- Use examples to make things clearer. It’s important not to create a sense of ‘blame’. For example, instead of telling someone they couldn’t make a cup of tea, you could suggest they seem to find it difficult to make a cup of tea.
- Have an open conversation and be honest and direct. For example, ask how they’re feeling about their memory.
- Make a positive plan of action together.
While a dementia diagnosis might initially come as a shock, some people come to view it in a positive way, as it’s the first step towards getting someone the information, help and support they need to manage the condition. It can help people take control, make plans and prepare for the future. Read more about what to do if you’ve just been diagnosed with dementia.