Dementia. It is a scary word. It is something that none of us want to hear, whether for ourselves or our loved ones. However, 91% of people living in the UK are affected by dementia. That’s approximately 60m people… when you let that sink in for a moment, you understand why it is so important that we are able to increase diagnosis rates, to be able to understand the difference between getting old and getting ill, so that we are able to support people in the right way.

People often start to forget things more as they get older. Most often this is a normal sign of ageing. But for someone with dementia, changes will be different, more serious and will affect their life more.

It is why we take dementia seriously. We are a dementia friendly status organisation, so that our staff, especially those working with our tenants and communities, have the knowledge and skills to be able to spot symptoms and also, provide advice where needed. The Alzheimer’s Society found that there is a misconception around memory loss just being part of getting old, but their research found being in denial, and referral times to specialists, are big barriers for those experiencing symptoms to seek a diagnosis in the first place.

There are so many reasons why our memories can sometimes let us down, at all ages. Stress and anxiety can be a common factor, as well as depression, so being forgetful doesn’t mean that it is the early signs of having dementia. There could be other causes and more likely, easily treatable.

So, what are the normal signs of ageing?

Most of us are lucky enough to live into our retirement and old age, but also many continuing to thrive well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s. However, we all know that as we get older, we are more likely to notice some changes in our mental abilities such as:

  • becoming a little more forgetful
  • taking a bit longer to remember things
  • getting distracted more easily
  • finding it harder to do several things at once.

This may become noticeable particularly from middle age – usually meaning our 40s, 50s and early 60s. Though these changes can be frustrating, they are a natural part of ageing. Many people worry that these are early signs of dementia, but for most people, this is not the case.

How is dementia different?

Dementia is a group of symptoms and it’s caused by different diseases that damage the brain.

The symptoms of dementia get worse over time and include:

  • memory loss
  • confusion and needing help with daily tasks
  • problems with language and understanding
  • changes in behaviour.

Talking to your GP

Dementia can only be diagnosed by a qualified health professional, so taking the first step and talking to your GP can seem like a mountain to climb, as just even asking the question – could this be dementia – isn’t something that will come easily to any of us. It could be that you are asking the question on behalf of a loved one. However, you can read through the symptoms checklist that has been created by the Alzheimer’s Society to help with that first step.

You can also watch the video on the top tips for talking to your GP…