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Wed, 13 Mar, 2019Basmah Qazi

Dementia early warning signs: Changes to look out for

Dementia early warning signs: Changes to look out for

You swear you left your keys on the table, but they don’t seem to be there.

You walked into a room and can’t remember what you needed.

You became increasingly frustrated because you couldn’t find the exit in the shopping centre.

Do these situations seem familiar?

Ageing is a beautiful process. It’s proof of a life well-lived, with many stories and experiences to share. But growing older can also have adverse effects on your health, with one being dementia.

Dementia isn’t just one size fits all, as the disease comes in many forms – the most common being Alzheimer’s. But despite the complicated nature of the neurological illness, the symptoms generally overlap with one another, which is why it’s important to understand the early warning signs.

We sat down with Tamar Krebs, a leading expert in aged and dementia care, to provide us an insight into the common disease. While symptoms can be similar from patient to patient, they can also vastly vary depending on the type of dementia the person is dealing with.

And when it comes to the most common symptoms, the complicated disorder has uncomplicated warning signals.

“Depending on the type of dementia, for some it may be becoming more withdrawn from day to day life, for others it maybe confusion and making a mess of paying bills and simple mathematics,” Ms Krebs explained.

“If someone was a great cook, you may notice a change in their cooking ability or taste of the food.”

But while these are easy to keep track of, dementia isn’t completely black and white, with many important signs going by unnoticed.

“Subtle signs of being disengaged, we find that families first make excuses for the person – they are getting older or maybe a bit depressed,” says Ms Krebs.

“When someone displays forgetfulness, people that are around pretend to brush it off, saying ‘we all forget sometimes’, instead of looking for an increased pattern of memory loss.”

And the statistics are alarming, with 1 in 10 people over 65 dealing with dementia. Meaning by the year 2028, over 589,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease – 55 per cent of those being women.

According to Health Direct, dementia isn’t purely associated with memory loss, as the illness is the leading cause of death amongst Australian females and the second leading cause of death overall.

These numbers are only growing, with many coming to terms with their loved ones being consumed by the disability.

Ms Krebs says that when taking care of someone with dementia, there is one thing to keep in mind.

“They aren’t always suffering, rather it is important to learn to live with dementia,” she says.

“The approach of living with dementia is a solution-based approach focusing on the things the person enjoys and CAN do, rather than focusing on their diminishing memory and cognition.”

Unfortunately, there is no proven deterrent when it comes to dementia, but there has been plenty of noise around maintaining a good lifestyle.

“Keeping social, keeping fit, eating well and staying relevant, but nothing is proven,” says Ms Krebs.

If you find yourself relating to this story, and recognise one or more of these symptoms, then be sure to visit your GP for a check-up.

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