At the DC we usually tend to focus on topics that are relevant post-diagnosis, like the varying types of dementia. However, it’s just as important to look at what happens pre-diagnosis such as memory tests, routine check-ups and how you can differentiate between a ‘whoops’ moment and what could be a symptom of something more serious. With that in mind we’ve included a handy Alzheimer’s Disease International info-graphic of early signs, and symptoms of dementia which you can check out below:
Lots of people, especially when it comes to their health, tend to put off until tomorrow what they could do today but when it comes to dementia it really is a case of sooner is better. You may have nothing to worry about, but if you fit the diagnostic criteria for dementia, i.e. are over sixty-five, have genetic factors and enjoy a less than healthy lifestyle booking an appointment with your GP may be a good idea.
Your doctor will probably take a detailed medical history, so if you are having trouble recalling things it may be best to have someone with you but any previous treatments or issues should be in your records. They will also give you a physical examination to check that you haven’t injured yourself in some way which might be contributing to your physical symptoms.
While diagnosing dementia isn’t an exact science, a lot of data can be gathered from someone answering a few simple questions. In fact, it’s then possible to rule out things like depression, anxiety, delirium, caused by infection, and a change in medication. Further to this, your doctor may order a set of blood tests to dismiss other underlying causes such as untreated diabetes that’s making you feel weak, sleepy or sick. One of the easiest ways to check if someone is experiencing signs of early-onset dementia is to ask them about everyday activities. For instance, someone with no memory problems should be able to say what they ate and drank in 24 hours, what clothes they wore, where they went and so on.
If you find that you’re struggling with simple everyday tasks like washing, dressing and cooking as well as more complicated ones like paying bills then you may be referred to a specialist. Try not to worry too much if this is the case as dementia specialists, often based at memory clinics, are usually kind, understanding and informative. Not only that but they should be be able to advise you, or your loved one on what happens next. Once the clinic has received your diagnosis then you have the option or not of whether to hear it. Bear in mind that medical jargon can often make things sound much worse than they are, so your doctor should be able to explain it all in clear, simple terms.
This conversation should cover what type of dementia you’ve got and some details about symptoms, and how you may feel in the next few weeks, and months. They’ll also be able to suggest treatment options and give you information on what support services/dementia meetups are in your area. It’s highly likely you will also be given a booklet, or some form of written documentation too but only read this when you feel able to do so.
You may have to disclose your diagnosis to your company’s occupational health team if you’re still working but you can share as much, or as little, with friends, family and loved ones as you want. You may also be tempted to ‘Google’ for advice and support but there’s quite a lot of misinformation on dementia out there so at the start it’s good to stick to approved charities/organisations like Dementia UK and do feel free to look through some of the Dementia Cafe’s articles too!