They say that each person will experience dementia in their own way and that the symptoms and rate of progression will vary from person to person. This makes perfect sense as everyone has their own personality, values and life experiences.
However what I didn’t appreciate, until Mum got ill, is that the type of dementia a person has will also have a fundamental impact on the earlier symptoms they will experience and the care and support they will need.
For example, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the main symptoms is memory lapses and forgetfulness, whereas for people with dementia with Lewy bodies, day to day memory usually remains fairly intact. However people with dementia with Lewy bodies often experience hallucinations from early on in the disease whereas with Alzheimer’s this doesn’t tend to happen until the later stages.
As each type of dementia progresses and more of the brain becomes damaged, the symptoms become more similar.
Common symptoms of dementia
This section looks at some of the symptoms, that I found most challenging to manage throughout Mum’s illness, symptoms that impact on most types of dementia’s at some point during the progression of the disease including:
- Memory Loss – most people associate memory loss as one of the main features of dementia. Whilst this is true for some types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss isn’t always one of the earlier symptoms. This page looks at the different types of memory, and how memory is affected in the earlier stages of each type of dementia.
- Behavioural Changes – a person with dementia may act out of character and become aggressive or restless (sometimes known as challenging behaviour). This page looks into why someone’s behaviour may become challenging and what can be done to help, reassure and diffuse the situation.
- Excessive Walking – often known as ‘wandering’ is common in people with dementia. Although walking is a good form of exercise and can relive stress and boredom, it can cause carers to worry for their loved ones safety. This page looks into the causes and risks of ‘wandering’ and what can be done to mitigate the risks.
- Communication & Aphasia – as the disease progresses, the communication skills of a person with dementia will gradually decline and they will eventually have more difficulty expressing thoughts and emotions. This page looks into why and includes tips on improving communication.
- Sundowning – is a symptom of dementia where confusion and agitation worsen in the late afternoon and evening or as the sun goes down. This page looks into the cause and some of the strategies which can be put into place to manage them.
I believe that the symptoms and behavioural changes mentioned above, which impact on how someone communicates effectively and how they act and react to situations, contribute largely to the stigma that is still attached to dementia. Learning how to manage these symptoms and calm and reassure your loved one, together with raising awareness about dementia can help to reduce stigma and promote a dementia friendly society.
The Alzheimer’s Society has produced some very useful PDF booklets on the symptoms of dementia including: