Dementia: Signs, Symptoms, and Seeking Treatment

21 Oct 2019
Here is a guide to help caregivers looking after loved ones with dementia. Find out how to identify signs and symptoms, and where to get treatment.

Is your loved one becoming forgetful, having difficulty doing familiar tasks, or getting confused about time and place? How do you know if it’s a sign of ageing or something more?

AIC’s Facebook page often gets questions on how to identify signs and symptoms of dementia, and where to get help. Ms Muharina Bte Mohd Taib, Programme Coordinator at Alzheimer’s Disease Association’s New Horizon Centre (Tampines) answers them on “You Ask, We Answer”.

Yap Thian Yong
Ms Muharina Bte Mohd Taib

Programme Coordinator - Alzheimer’s Disease Association’s New Horizon Centre (Tampines)

As a Programme Coordinator, Ms Muharina organises and plans daily activities for persons with dementia, ensuring that they stay engaged throughout the day. She is a familiar face at the centre, having been with the team since 2002.

How do we know whether the person has dementia or is just forgetful? How can I help if I suspect my family member has dementia?

Ms Muharina Bte Mohd TaibAnswer:

As we grow older, it’s common for us to get a little more forgetful. Most people will need a longer time to remember things and may get distracted easily. These changes are normal.

However, those with dementia may not recall recent events. They tend to be constantly confused and experience a decrease in concentration levels. You may also notice a change in their behaviour and personality. They may miss out parts of their daily activities without realising it.

Dementia is a condition that causes progressive intellectual decline, which affects a person’s thinking, behaviour, and ability to perform everyday tasks. Early symptoms of dementia can be hard to detect. There are several stages for the progression of dementia, and it varies between people.

You can help to identify if your loved one has dementia by watching out for the ABCDs of Dementia at Different Stages.

  • Activities of daily living
    Does your loved one have difficulty in doing everyday activities such as cooking or dressing?
  • Behaviour
    Is your loved one becoming more withdrawn, and getting easily upset and frustrated?
  • Cognition
    Does your loved one have difficulty remembering things or words, and finds it hard to do simple calculations?
  • Disorientation
    Is your loved one confused with directions, which day it is, or with the time of the day?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, and suspect your loved one has dementia, please consult your doctor or specialist for further advice. Early detection of dementia can allow better treatment of the disease. Check here for more signs and symptoms of dementia.

How do we convince an elderly person who seems to be exhibiting early signs of dementia to get checked if they insist that they are fine?

Ms Muharina Bte Mohd TaibAnswer:

If your loved one does not wish to go for a check-up, you can encourage him or her in other ways. Educate your loved one that common health problems can lead to complications if left untreated. Share your observations and your concerns of him or her with a positive tone, and remember to show your affection. You can try something like this, “I noticed that you have been lethargic and down over the last few weeks. I would feel better if you go for a health check-up.” You may even wish to consider offering to do a health check together to minimise anxiety.

How should we take care of a person with dementia?

Ms Muharina Bte Mohd TaibAnswer:

If your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you first need to prioritise his or her safety and comfort. You can create a safe and comfortable home environment by making it clutter-free. Through the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme, you can install grab bars in areas where your loved one needs help, such as the toilet. These measures will help prevent falls and facilitate their movements around the home.

Second, make sure to constantly engage them in activities that sustain their attention. Use simple instructions and words when conversing with them, and remember to keep a positive tone. You can use these C.A.R.E. tips when communicating with them:

  • Clear - Use simple words and speak slowly to them
  • Acknowledge - Let them know you understand their concerns
  • Respectful - Be polite and reassuring
  • Engage - Interact with them in a way that provides comfort so that they trust you

Third, encourage your loved ones to interact and socialise as doing this stimulates their mind.

Families can call the dementia helpline (6377 0700) provided by Alzheimer’s Disease Association to get assistance.

If you need advice or support on any mental health issues or are interested in encouraging your loved one to go for a Mood and Dementia screening, you may wish to email [email protected] for more information.