More than memory loss...

People often assume that memory loss and dementia are one and the same, but there are other key symptoms and signs to look out for. Every person with dementia is different. How their illness affects them depends on which areas of their brain are most damaged. 

  • Movement - Dementia can cause problems with how we move about in our surrounding area. Things like slips, trips and falls might become more common. You might start to notice that a person is shuffling as appose to lifting their legs when they are walking. 
  • Word finding - You could notice a person struggling to follow a conversation, or that they are unable to find the right words. Sometimes a person might use a related word that is just ‘not quite right’ like jumper instead of jacket. This is called ‘aphasia’. This can affect names too, even with people they know well. 
  • Time keeping - Losing track of time could be memory loss, or it could be that the brain can no longer read an analogue clock. In fact, a ‘Clock Test’ can be used by doctors to determine early signs of dementia. A person will be asked to draw the hands of a blank clock at a particular time. 
  • Personality or mood changes - Our frontal lobes control things like our ability to focus, impulse control and emotion, so when cells in this area are damaged it can cause changes to someone’s personality. We are all unique individuals and that's what makes the experience of dementia so diverse. If you are noticing dramatic changes in personality and what's typical of your behaviour then speak to you doctor about your concern (or call our Helpline for more information). 
  • Sight loss - Some rarer dementias like Posterior Cortical Atrophy, can damage the part of the brain that’s responsible for understanding the images that we see. This could cause sight loss, even if the eye itself seems healthy.  
  • Sensory issues - These are often under reported and under recognised as being a symptom of dementia. People may experience issues with depth perception and spatial awareness, sensitivity to noise, or notice changes to taste and smell.
  • Hallucinations - With some dementias, like dementia with Lewy Bodies, a person is likely to experience hallucinations or delusions. This could be seeing colours, people or objects that aren’t there or even auditory hallucinations like hearing voices.  

Dementia is an umbrella term for over 100 different types of diseases and symptoms, and it's possible to have more than one type. What all these diseases have in common is that they damage brain cells, so that the brain cannot work as well as it should. Dementia is not a natural part of the ageing process. It’s caused by illnesses that affect the brain.

If you are worried that you may have dementia, book an appointment to see your doctor. Ask for a double appointment to allow plenty of time to discuss your concerns. Your GP may refer you to a memory clinic or a specialist to better understand what has been happening. This may include more detailed testing of your memory, and sometimes other tests.

Our 24 hour Freephone Dementia Helpline is available 365 days a year and provides information, signposting and emotional support. Call 0808 808 3000 or email [email protected]