Our Founder and Editor Christina Neal writes about the day she realised her mum’s forgetfulness and confusion were signs of dementia
When my mum was diagnosed with dementia, I knew very little about the disease and had only associated it with memory loss, which is what I witnessed in my mum. However, as I delved deeper into caring for her, I realised that dementia encompasses so much more than just forgetfulness. The journey has been challenging, but I’ve learned a great deal about the condition and what to look out for.
Looking back, I can see that my mum was displaying signs of dementia long before she was diagnosed. Her forgetfulness became more obvious, and she would constantly repeat herself or forget names. It was easy to put this down to grieving – she had not long lost my dad and was very traumatised by the loss.
However, there was one incident that stood out and made me realise that something more serious was going on. My mum rang me one day, accusing me of taking her car without permission as it wasn’t on her drive. I was an hour away from her and had my own car, so I knew this wasn’t possible. It was later discovered that she had driven to the village shop, parked her car outside, walked home, and then forgotten where she had parked it. This was the turning point for me, and it made me realise that mum needed help.
I soon found out that dementia affects much more than just memory. It can change moods, alter behaviours, and affect perception and emotional wellbeing. Mum became more irritable and generally negative. She would lose all sense of time – sometimes confusing 5am with 5pm in the summer – and her ability to do simple tasks started to decline. It was clear that the disease was affecting her ability to carry out daily routines, which can be frustrating for both the person living with dementia and the caregiver.
Being aware of dementia symptoms
I learned that being aware of the symptoms is crucial in helping improve the lives of those living with dementia. Being able to recognise changes in mood, behaviour, or even sleep patterns can help you understand what a loved one is going through. Additionally, I learned to be patient and to listen more. Communication can become difficult for people with dementia, so it’s important to remain calm and positive, even when they become agitated or confused.
I also found that seeking support was vital. Caring for someone with dementia can be isolating. Having someone to talk to or sharing experiences with others in the same situation can provide much-needed relief.
Recognising the signs of dementia goes beyond just noticing memory loss. It’s essential to be aware of the disease’s complexities and how it can affect other aspects of a person’s life. Understanding the symptoms can help you provide the necessary support and care for your loved one. It’s also essential to seek support for yourself as a carer. Caring for someone with dementia can be daunting, but with knowledge and support, you can navigate the journey and provide your loved one with the best possible care.