Dementia affects memory, thinking and behaviour, impacting millions of people worldwide. It’s progressive which means the symptoms get worse over time.

This Dementia Action Week, Ruth Bradford, the admiral nurse at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, is helping the local community to identify the signs of the disorder.

As an admiral nurse specialising in dementia, I often encounter families who are grappling with the complexities of the condition.

The journey through dementia can be daunting, but early recognition and support can significantly improve outcomes, so here is how you can spot signs of potential dementia in your loved ones:

Memory loss: While occasional forgetfulness is normal, persistent memory loss that disrupts daily life may indicate dementia, with frequent repetition of questions, forgetting important events, and heavy reliance on memory aids.

Difficulty with everyday tasks: Dementia can make familiar tasks like cooking or following a recipe difficult, so it's crucial to pay attention if your loved one struggles with these tasks.

Confusion and disorientation: Individuals with dementia may become confused about time, place, or people.

They might forget where they are, how they got there, or even the current year. Disorientation can lead to anxiety and agitation.

Changes in mood and personality: Dementia can lead to mood and behaviour changes, including irritability, suspicion, withdrawal, and apathy.

Difficulty communicating: As dementia progresses, language difficulties may arise. Loved ones might struggle to find the right words or follow a conversation, or they may repeat themselves or lose their train of thought mid-sentence.

Poor judgment: Individuals with dementia may demonstrate poor judgment or decision-making skills. They might make uncharacteristic financial decisions, neglect personal hygiene, or engage in risky behaviours without considering the consequences.

Withdrawal: Dementia can lead to social withdrawal as individuals struggle to keep up with conversations or feel embarrassed about their symptoms. They may avoid social gatherings or hobbies they once enjoyed.

Prompt medical advice is crucial for identifying signs of dementia in your loved one, as early diagnosis can help manage symptoms and access necessary support services. If you are concerned, you can:

Schedule a doctor’s appointment: Discuss your concerns with your loved one’s GP. They can perform a thorough evaluation and refer you to specialists if necessary.

Educate yourself: Learn about dementia and how the condition can be managed. Understanding can help you provide better support to your loved one and navigate the challenges ahead.

Seek support: Joining support groups or seeking counselling can provide emotional support for both caregivers and individuals with dementia. Connecting with others who are facing similar challenges can be invaluable.

Plan: As dementia progresses, it is essential to plan for future care needs and legal matters. Consider discussing advanced care directives, power of attorney, and long-term care options with your loved one and other family members.

Remember, you are not alone on this journey. Reach out to healthcare professionals, support groups, and community resources for guidance and assistance.

Together, we can make sure no one faces dementia alone.