How to Spot Dementia
This is one of the most commonly asked questions on our website.
So congrats for coming to learn!
If you have watched our third video, How to Spot Dementia, the 3 key learnings below will be at the forefront of your mind. In this blog we will unravel these 3 key learnings and help shine some light on how to spot dementia.
3 keys of learning
- Baseline Assessment - have one done at the peak of cognitive skills
- Engage your local service to have a health check – to rule out all other possibilities
- Get some of the reading and DVD materials listed to help you
As always if anything we have covered has raised concerns for you or your loved ones, you are not alone. There are many charities set up to help. We have listed some below:
Early stage dementia
It is critical that there is no immediate assumption that a change in behaviour has been caused by dementia. For this reason, it is vital to first rule out all other possibilities. This said, the following changes in a person could be signs of early dementia.
- Subtle changes in behaviour and mood
- Night time waking
- Loss of interest in favourite hobby
- Performance at day placements deteriorate
- Problems with 3D vision
- Problems with memory for recent events
- Ability to learn new information is affected
- Language and word finding problems
- Decline in social, community and daily living skills
- Disorientation or challenging behaviour
- Difficulties with steps, stairs, and kerbs due to depth perception problems. (Depth perception is common in dementia. You may have noticed a loved on raising their leg as though to step when there is no step in front of them. This is because changes of colour can be misunderstood as a change in depth.)
If you have noticed any of these changes in someone you are caring for please phone your local care team to make an appointment for a Baseline Assessment. Your local care team will be able to organise the Baseline assessment which will lead to a definitive diagnosis. The assessment will be made up of a variety of puzzles, games and questions, in order to measure cognitive skills.
Assessments for adults with Learning Disabilities will often include:
- Medical assessment e.g. hearing, sight, blood tests to rule out other conditions
- Cognitive assessment e.g. orientation, memory, learning, language, visual-spatial skills
- Adaptive assessment e.g. daily living skills, social and communications skills
- Behavioural assessment e.g. changes in behaviour, personality, unusual or challenging behaviours
- Background history: medication, medical history, health, past abilities, risk factors e.g. head injury, family history
- Psychological/ psychiatric assessment e.g. mental health problems, real life events, bereavement, social and physical environment
- Need robust baseline assessment of individual’s cognitive and social functioning in early adult life circa age 30. (Excellent documentation by care providers is vital, especially for those with LD who move from home to home. Ensuring an assessment is carried out at the peak of an person’s cognitive skills ensures that there is something to compare with as time progresses.)
As previously discussed, it is important to not jump to an assumption of dementia as many other conditions present like dementia. One such condition being delirium. It is essential the correct process is undertaken to rule out other causes. Here is a range of other conditions that may be causing this change:
- Differential diagnosis
- Endocrine or metabolic disturbance
- Toxicity - combinations of drugs causing the person to seem confused
- Heart disease
- Bone fractures
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- Visual and hearing impairments
- Grief reactions
- Environmental changes
This can be a worrying time and you may have a lot of unanswered questions. For example; What percentage of people who have LD know they have LD? How many know the word ‘dementia’? What will you tell the person about why you want to do a baseline assessment? What other ways can you introduce issues of aging and dementia?
Diagnosing dementia is all about the small changes. Reach out and ask for help.
If you have any further questions or concerns do not hesitate to get in contact with us or a leading charity. We have also listed below some great books and DVDs which will help you in your journey..
Books and manuals for people with learning disabilities
For those who live in a care home and need to understand what is happening to their friend
It has lots of pictures
Down's Syndrome and Dementia Workbook for Staff
This is designed to go with each person where ever they move to and each and every person should have one! It has pages for staff to write notes and is really excellent. An invaluable investment.
Pls call DSA on UK Number 0333 1212 300 and they will send you a copy for £15
The Simplicity of Dementia
Buijssen, H. (2005) The Simplicity of Dementia. London: Jessica Kingsley
Good general read with loads of coping ideas and real life people examples
Disability and Dementia
Also available in Dutch, Chinese and Norwegian
We are here to help so reach out to us and we will do all we can to support you.