What is Dementia and what are Symptoms of Dementia?

Hope Park House is a specialist Dementia Care Home located in Perthshire, Scotland. Our main focus is to offer various day and residential care services to those living with dementia in a way that ensures they receive the best quality of care and enjoy their time with us.

It is important to know therefore what dementia is and what symptoms can be reminiscent of dementia. If you are currently living with someone or you yourself may feel that you are displaying some of these symptoms it is important to get in touch with your local GP to have a conversation about possible living assistance options.

partial view of senior man playing jigsaw puzzle as dementia therapy

What is Dementia?

The term “dementia” describes a group of conditions and symptoms relating to a decline cognitive thinking at a level that everyday life and tasks become extremely difficult to complete and manage. Some of the symptoms of dementia can include memory loss and difficulty with a range of thinking abilities such as language, problem solving and the ability to make judgements.

Alzheimer’s Disease is considered the most common cause of dementia, causing between 60-80% of all cases of dementia. Other causes of dementia can be thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and other that we will discuss.

What are the Symptoms of Dementia?

The NHS highlights the following as early signs of dementia:

  • memory loss and memory problems
  • difficulty concentrating
  • finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
  • struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
  • being confused about time and place
  • mood swings and rapid mood changes

It is important to note that Dementia can affect people differently and some may present all or a few of the above symptoms. You may not recognise these early symptoms within yourself, but if family members have mentioned they have noticed some of these symptoms presenting, it is a good idea to visit a GP to see if any additional support can be offered.

Image provided by Cross Keys Village to highlight the different warning signs of dementia: https://www.crosskeysvillage.org/dementia-warning-signs/

What is Alzheimer’s Disease and is it the same as Dementia?

Alzheimer’s Disease is considered the main cause of dementia and contributes to over half of dementia cases. It in itself is not “dementia” but it contributes to a number of the symptoms of dementia that are presented.

Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain disorder that contributes to a decline in cognitive abilities or thinking skills and eventually the ability to carry out everyday tasks.

It is most common for Alzheimer’s Disease to present in those aged over 60, and this is referred to as Late Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It is incredibly rate for symptoms of dementia to present to those younger than 60, but Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease has been found in those ranging from age 30 to age 60.

Alzheimer’s Disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer who identified abnormal clumps (now known as amyloid plaques) and tangles bundles of fibres (now called neurofibrillary tangles) in the brain of a woman who had died of an unspecified mental illness. The symptoms she presented included memory loss, languages problems and unpredictable behaviour. We would now recognise these symptoms today as dementia symptoms but the important difference here is the changes within the actual tissue of the brain.

These brain abnormalities are still considered to be some of the main symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. Another identifying feature is the loss of connections between nerve cells, known as neurons, in the brain. Neurons transmit messages between different parts of the brain and around the body. There are other factors that contribute to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but these, alongside dementia symptoms, are the main identifying features used to make a diagnosis.

image of a brain inside of a jigsaw highlighting the feeling dementia can have

What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The NHS describes the below as common symptoms pf Alzheimer’s Disease:

  • memory problems, such as regularly forgetting recent events, names and faces
  • asking questions repetitively
  • increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require organisation and planning
  • becoming confused in unfamiliar environments
  • difficulty finding the right words
  • difficulty with numbers and/or handling money in shops
  • becoming more withdrawn or anxious

There is a wealth of support and information available through Alzheimer’s Society. Get in touch with your GP to find out more about getting a diagnosis and what support is available to you.

What is Vascular Dementia?

After Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia is the second most common cause of dementia symptoms in those living with the condition. It presents as a decline in cognitive thinking including memory problems, decision making skills and other symptoms that are the result of a block or reduce blood flow to various regions of the brain, depriving them of oxygen and nutrients.

Stroke’s are a common cause of a vascular dementia diagnosis, as these block major blood vessels in the brain. These can be many minor strokes with symptoms worsening as these progress and reoccur, causing widespread damage throughout the brain.

a picture of a human brain over a black background

What are the Symptoms of Vascular Dementia?

The most common symptoms of vascular dementia noted by Alzheimer’s Society are:

  • problems with planning or organising, making decisions or solving problems
  • difficulties following a series of steps (such as when cooking a meal)
  • slower speed of thought
  • problems concentrating, including short periods of sudden confusion.

A person in the early stages may also have difficulties with their memory and their language.

What is Frontotemporal Dementia?

In Frontotemporal Dementia, parts of the frontal and temporal lobes shrink which is known as atrophy. Depending on which part of the brain this shrinking occurs, signs and symptoms can vary from mild cognitive impairment, to more life impacting symptoms affective their personalities that affect social skills, use of language appropriately, mood swings and more.

Frontotemporal Dementia can be misdiagnosed as a psychiatric condition or as Alzheimer’s Disease, but it tends to occur at a younger age than these other conditions. Frontotemporal Dementia often begins between the ages of 40 and 65 but occurs later in life as well.

What are the Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia?

The NHS identifies the following as symptoms of FTD:

  • personality and behaviour changes – acting inappropriately or impulsively, appearing selfish or unsympathetic, neglecting personal hygiene, overeating, rapid mood swings or loss of motivation
  • language problems – speaking slowly, struggling to make the right sounds when saying a word, getting words in the wrong order, or using words incorrectly
  • problems with mental abilities – getting distracted easily, struggling with planning and organisation
  • memory problems – these only tend to occur later on, unlike more common forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease

There may also be physical ailments such as slow or stiff movements, loss of bladder or bowel control, muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing.

As with all forms of dementia, an early diagnosis is key to managing these symptoms and ensuring you are given the support you need.

What is Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy Body Dementia, or sometimes called dementia with Lewy Bodies, is another common type of progressive dementia. It’s identifying features are protein deposits in the brain develop into nerve cells affecting the parts of the brain involved in thinking, memory and motor skills.

Lewy Body Dementia causes a progressive cognitive decline and some common symptoms can include visual hallucinations, poor judgment and decision making, changes in alertness and attention, communication abilities and more. This form of dementia can often present similarly to Parkinson’s Disease due to it’s affect on motor capabilities.

What is Mixed Dementia?

Mixed Dementia is where a person has one or more types of dementia. As this can include any of the above types of dementia we have mentioned, although it is most commonly Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia, symptoms can vary from person to person depending on what types of dementia they are suffering from.

Mixed Dementia is quite common amongst people over the age of 75, with one in ten people living with dementia having a diagnosis. The symptoms associated can be a mix of any of the symptoms we have mentioned above, from difficulty walking and other motor skills, to a decline in cognitive ability. Those with this type of dementia can be at greater risk of injury to themselves due to the multiple symptoms they are living with, and therefore it is important to be aware of any changes in behaviour and abilities to ensure a person is receiving the support they require.

What Support is Available to Me and My Family?

There are a number of Dementia Support groups that offer advice, guidance and support to those living with dementia and their carers. Some important groups to note are:

You can also speak with friends and family members about how you are feeling or any concerns you may have of those you love presenting dementia like symptoms. Visit your GP or contact one of the above helplines if you feel you or a loved one may be living with dementia.

Hope Park House Dementia Care

Hope Park House are proud to be a dementia care specialist in Perthshire. We offer the best quality of care for those living with dementia, including any of the above types of dementia.

If you are looking for additional support as a carer looking after someone with dementia, Hope Park House offers day care, residential care and respite care options to ensure there is something to suit every body. To find out more about our services please get in touch on 01250 872349 or email care@hopeparkhouse.com