Signs of ageing
Dementia is not part of natural ageing. It is important to distinguish between getting older and having a dementia.
Some signs and symptoms linked to getting older include:
- you forget names or appointments sometimes, but remember later
- you make errors with money sometimes
- you need help sometimes to set a microwave or record a television show
- you feel despondent sometimes or don’t like changing a long-term routine
- you aren’t sure what day it is but work it out later
- your eyesight changes and you become long-sighted or develop cataracts
- you cannot remember the exact word sometimes
- you lose things but can find them later
- you make a bad decision occasionally
- you’re reluctant to go out socially but are still socially active
Signs and symptoms linked to dementia
If you’re concerned you have any of the following ten symptoms, you should talk to your GP.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Forgetting recent events is a very common sign in most types of dementia, especially in the early stages.
Other signs someone might have dementia include:
- they forget important dates
- they repeat what they say
- they rely increasingly on reminder notes or electronic devices as memory aids
- they rely often on family members for things they were able handle on their own
Difficulty in planning or solving problems
Some people may find it more difficult to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may find it difficult to concentrating or they take longer to do things than they did before.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
People with a dementia often have problems doing daily tasks. For example, they may have difficulty:
- driving to a familiar place
- managing a budget
- remembering the rules of a favourite game
Changes in mood
When someone has a dementia, their mood can change. They can become:
They might become easily upset:
- at home
- at work
- with friends
- in unfamiliar places
Confusion with time or place
Someone with a dementia can lose track of times and dates. They may have trouble understanding something being planned in the future. Sometimes they may feel confused about where they are.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
Someone with a dementia may have difficulty:
- judging distance
- determining colour or contrast which could cause problems when driving
They may also have problems perceiving what they see (rather than how sharply they see it) due to changes in the brain rather than the eyes.
Problems with words in speaking or writing
Someone with a dementia might find it difficult to follow or join a conversation.
- stop speaking in the middle of a conversation
- find it difficult to continue a conversation
- repeat what they say
They may struggle to find the right word or call things by the wrong name, for example describing a “watch” as a “hand-clock”.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person with a dementia may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to retrace their steps to find what they've lost.
Sometimes this could cause them to be suspicious about other people. This behaviour can become more frequent over time.
Decreased or poor judgment
Someone with a dementia may experience changes in judgment or decision making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money. They may pay less attention to their personal appearance.
Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person with a dementia might withdraw from social gatherings. They might feel embarrassed or worried about:
- not following a conversation
- making mistakes in front of other people
This could make them feel isolated.
Where to find help and support
You can find more information and support services from the following organisations, see also ‘more useful links section’:
The Public Health Agency has also produced a range of information to help support people with a dementia, their families and friends.
This information includes the following publications:
- Ten common signs of dementia
- Early stages of dementia
- Communicating effectively with a person living with dementia
- Are you worried about dementia?
Dementia apps library
The ‘Apps4Dementia’ library is a digital service which groups together safe, trusted apps to provide information and guidance on the condition.
There a number of apps that offer support, self-care of symptoms and enable users to carry on with their day-to-day activities for as long as possible.
More useful links
- Dementia services - Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
- Dementia services - Northern Health and Social Care Trust
- Mental Health Services for Older People - South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust
- Dementia services - Southern Health and Social Care Trust
- Dementia services - Western Health and Social Care Trust