My tip to look out for early signs of dementia

Five ways to spot if someone has Alzheimer’s

Good BBC article (click the link above) about signs to look out for to find out if someone has dementia, but I think dementia may start much earlier than anyone currently thinks. I want to share my tip for spotting potential dementia in someone you know and I'm talking from direct experience here. Or, you yourself may show a sign of problem yourself. Don't ignore it!

Basically, look out for a one-off behaviour that is done constantly. What I mean by this is that if someone in the early stages of dementia, yet still years away from showing signs of it, they may be unable to do something or say something which is out of character for them and do it constantly.

Some examples to look out for are:

  • Calling someone by the wrong name all the time and/or confusing that person with someone else and yet get everyone's else's name correct.
  • Putting something in the wrong place, ie putting a spoon in the knife drawer each and every time, or almost every time and yet everything else is placed in the correct place.
  • Displaying a one off out of character trait, ie passing wind and laughing about it, when they normally would never do such a thing. Or, making suggestive remarks at people or just one person, a sign of frontotemporal dementia which my Dad had.
  • Unable to do a skill which they have done with ease all their lives, ie fix a leaky tap, wire a plug.

I've experienced this twice now and on both occasions I did not recognise the problem until much later. With my Dad, it was fixing the leaky tap. Years before he ever showed any symptoms of dementia, he was unable to fix a leaky tap, yet could do everything else including other plumbing tasks like fixing the leaky toilet. Odd, isn't it? He could fix a leaky toilet, yet could not fix the tap any more. A very subtle change and one I completely missed at the time.

I am totally useless at DIY, so when he was unable to fix the tap, I noticed this straight away with him, but paid no attention because he could do everything else. His behaviour was normal, speech normal etc, so it never occurred to me that this could be a warning sign of dementia. I just thought it was one of those things. WRONG!! If someone stops doing something they have always been able to do all their lives, that is a massive red flag, in my opinion.

More recently and I say recently because it started several years ago was with my mum. She would confuse the names of my brother and I and do it constantly. We laughed about it at the time. We don't laugh about it now... She still does it, but at least for the time being, she gets the names correct, even if they are assigned to the wrong person.

This is only purely my non-expert opinion, but do look out for this in your elderly parents, or if you are elderly yourself and start doing something wrong, or say something wrong and do it constantly. That's the important bit. Doing it/saying it constantly.

We can all forget people's names or put things in the wrong place from time to time, but if it starts to happen constantly, I believe this is a warning sign that dementia has started, even if all other symptoms are still years away.

For my next article, I will probably talk about medicine. I have lots to say on the subject, but I reckon I'll just stick to the issue of tablets for now. Bloody hard work!

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