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Early signs to watch for dementia

Many of us know, or have possibly even cared for a friend, loved one, or acquaintance with dementia. Dementia - the term used when a person experiences a gradual loss of brain function due to physical changes in the structure of their brain - is not a normal part of the ageing process and is most common in people over the age of 65 but can also affect people as young as 45. There are many causes, although the most common is Alzheimer’s disease.

While medication and therapies may help manage symptoms, the condition can’t be cured. People should always seek professional guidance and advice, but we have put together a list of some of the most common early signs of dementia.

1. Personality changes – the person is behaving or communicating in ways that are out of character – perhaps they are making unusually hurtful remarks or acting out of the ordinary
2. Speech and language problems – the person may experience difficulty finding the right words or getting their point across to the extent it is hard to understand what they are saying
3. Psychological changes – apathy, irritability, depression, withdrawal, feelings of paranoia
4. Disorientation – forgetting the day of the week, getting lost in familiar surroundings or feeling very uncomfortable in new ones
5. Challenges carrying out familiar tasks – for example, someone proficient in the kitchen forgets how to prepare a meal
6. Poor judgement or decision making – the person may lose understanding of what is fair and reasonable, this can result in everything from impulse purchases to poor hygiene and presentation
7. Changes in abstract thinking – the person’s ability to make sense of numbers may be compromised
8. Poor spatial skills – difficulty judging distance or direction when driving a car

If you are struggling to support someone with dementia, help is available. Visit www.dementia.nz for guidance.

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