Before my mum was formally diagnosed with vascular dementia, I knew something was wrong. I could tell that she wasn’t herself. If you have noticed that a loved one isn’t their normal self lately and you fear that something could be wrong, you may find common ground in these tell-tale signs that I saw in my mum…
She became very repetitive
She would repeat stories and statements within five or ten minutes of saying them. She had no idea she was doing this and would often deny it.
She became forgetful
A common and fairly well-known sign of dementia, being forgetful became a regular thing for mum. She’d always been very organised and kept a diary all her life, but she began to forget appointments, mix up times or dates and generally lost the ability to manage her schedule. It’s true that we all forget meetings or appointments from time to time. However, for mum, it became a regular occurrence and she found it very frustrating.
She became short-tempered for no reason
She would have mood swings and outbursts that were often unexpected and, on the surface, seemingly unjustified. She would get angry over little things and snap at people unexpectedly.
She became more emotional
Mum had always been a fairly strong person but when she had dementia she became more tearful and upset.
She began to lose her confidence
She would often refer to herself as ‘useless’ or ‘stupid’ when she forgot to do something. Her confidence began to waver, and she started to question herself and wonder what was wrong. She would also struggle to make basic decisions and would often ask me for my opinion before making her mind up.
She reacted badly to jokes
Mum had always liked a laugh and a joke and enjoyed bantering with people. However, she became very sensitive and if anyone made a joke that she thought might be making fun of her, even if they weren’t, she would get defensive and angry. She would accuse people of laughing at her when they were just joking about something else.
And then there was one that ‘one’ incident…
Despite all of the changes I’ve mentioned, mum refused to see her GP or admit that anything was seriously wrong. However, as is often the case with dementia, there was that ‘one’ incident that confirmed to me that mum wasn’t just getting older. She could blame things on old age but in the end, it was clear that something was wrong. In her case, the incident was the day she drove her car to the local shops, bought groceries, and then walked home. She had forgotten she’d driven to the shops and left her car parked outside.
She forgot about her car until the next day when she rang a relative and said it must have been stolen as it was no longer on the drive. She even accused me of taking it even though I didn’t live locally and had my own car. The incident itself was strange but so was mum’s reaction to it. At that point, I insisted that she should go to the doctor and in the end, a diagnosis was made.