As families meet up for the festive season, the Alzheimer’s Society is offering advice on recognising early signs of dementia in a loved one.
It says it typically sees a rise in people seeking out such information and support at this time of year.
While many realise that repeatedly forgetting names can be a red flag for dementia, few know that using repetitive phrases can also be a sign.
Stuttering or mispronouncing words is another warning.
There are around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK.
And 225,000 more people will develop dementia this year – that’s one every three minutes.
A YouGov survey of more than 4,000 adults reveals many people are confused about what are and are not signs of dementia.
Many people thought that forgetting why you have walked into a room (39%) might be a sign, which could happen to anyone. For a person with dementia, it is not so much why they walked into a room that is troubling, but the room itself seeming unfamiliar.
Seek medical advice if your memory loss is affecting daily life and especially if you:
- struggle to remember recent events, although you can easily recall things that happened in the past
- find it hard to follow conversations or programmes on TV
- forget the names of friends or everyday objects
- cannot recall things you have heard, seen or read
- lose the thread of what you are saying
- have problems thinking and reasoning
- feel anxious, depressed or angry
- feel confused even when in a familiar environment or get lost on familiar journeys
- find that other people start to notice or comment on your memory loss
The risk of dementia increases with age with one-in-six of those over 80 having the degenerative disease. But it can strike even in middle-age.
While a diagnosis of dementia can be daunting, it can be a sense of relief, as Dianne Wilkinson, 57 and from Folkestone, knows first-hand.
“I’ve always been a positive person, so it was odd when I started to feel low and withdrawn. I just put it down to one of those things that people go through from time to time and would eventually shift. I certainly didn’t think it could be a sign of dementia.
“After a couple of months some family members encouraged me to visit my GP, but it was only after my dementia diagnosis that others came forward and told me that they had noticed changes in my behaviour, such as repeating myself constantly, being unable to recall where I’d put things like my phone and feeling confused about the day of the week.
“I feel a sense of relief because now that I know I have dementia there’s an explanation for why I was behaving strangely.
“It’s so important people seek help early after noticing signs so that they can make sense of what is happening to them and get help to stay connected and get the most out of their life.”
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We know dementia is the most feared illness for many, and there’s no question that it can have a devastating impact on people, their family and friends.
“It’s important we tackle confusion around what are and aren’t signs of dementia, and help give people confidence in approaching loved ones about their concerns so people don’t delay getting help.
“Dementia can strip you of connections to the people you love, but we have many services that can help stop that and support you.”