Dementia symptoms include seven behavioural changes – what to look for

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Dementia is a syndrome, which is a group of symptoms, related to the progressive decline of the brain. Most common in people over the age of 65, though it can affect anyone of any age.

Due to the nature of dementia, the symptom we most commonly think of is memory loss. And as the condition progresses this tends to get worse over time.

This can leave people struggling to remember family members’ names, losing items and getting lost in familiar places.

However, memory loss is not the only symptom of dementia. It can also cause noticeable behavioural changes in loved ones.

While there is no cure for dementia, there are treatments available to help ease symptoms, as well as support out there to ensure the affected person has a good quality of life. Therefore, spotting these signs as soon as possible is important.

According to the Mayo Clinic in the US, there are seven behavioural changes that you might notice in someone with dementia.

These are:

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Inappropriate behaviour
  • Being suspicious, known as paranoia
  • Seeing things that aren’t there, known as hallucinations.

If you spot any of these signs coupled with other dementia symptoms it is worth speaking to a doctor.

The clinic says: “See a healthcare professional if you or a loved one has memory problems or other dementia symptoms. It’s important to determine the cause.

“Some medical conditions that cause dementia symptoms can be treated.”

According to the NHS, most behavioural changes occur as the dementia progresses.

“In the middle to later stages of most types of dementia, a person may start to behave differently,” the health body says.

“This can be distressing for both the person with dementia and those who care for them.”

The NHS lists early stage behavioural changes as:

  • Repeating the same question or activity over and over again
  • Restlessness, like pacing up and down, wandering and
  • Fidgeting
  • Night-time waking and sleep disturbance
  • Following a partner or spouse around everywhere
  • Loss of self-confidence, which may show as apathy or disinterest in their usual activities.

In the later stages a person with dementia may also become aggressive.

This can include shouting or screaming, verbal abuse, and sometimes physical abuse.

These may be some underlying causes leading to this aggression, such as:

  • Uncontrolled pain
  • Untreated depression
  • Infection, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Side effects of medicines.

Therefore, the first port of call should be to speak to their GP.

If this doesn’t result in any changes there are other ways to handle the situation.

The NHS advises: “If the person you’re caring for behaves in an aggressive way, try to stay calm and avoid confrontation. You may have to leave the room for a while.

“If none of the coping strategies works, an antipsychotic medicine can be prescribed as a short-term treatment.

“This should be prescribed by a consultant psychiatrist.”

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