Module 8 - Mental and Physical Health

Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia is divided into three stages: early, middle and late, with different types of symptoms evident as the dementia progresses.

Early stage

In this stage symptoms in dementia include a nonspecific decline characterised by the following: Subtle changes in behaviour and mood. Decline in occupational performance. Gaps in memory, particularly for recent events. Decrease in ability to learn new information. Language and word finding problems. Loss of previous social, community and daily living skills. Disorientation. Difficulties with steps, stairs and kerbs due to depth perception problems.

Middle stage

Symptoms of dementia at this stage include a marked loss of memory and functional ability Pronounced memory loss including personal information and familiar people. Increasing language problems (e.g. difficulties with naming things). Confusion and disorientation about time and place. Getting lost in familiar places. Progressive loss of self-care skills. Marked changes in personality and social behaviour with: mood changes, inactivity or apathy, behavioural disturbances (wandering, sleep problems and agitation). Hallucinations and delusions. Physical problems. Onset of seizures. Decreased mobility with falls. Incontinence.

Late dementia

Physical health issues predominate in the late stages of dementia Loss of eating and drinking skills. Problems with walking and balance, becoming bedridden and inactive. Inability to recognise people. Increase in repetitive behaviours. Increasingly dependent and may require 24 hour care. Greater risk of infections, particularly pneumonia. Loss of swallow reflex. Progressive decline until death.

Behavioural and Psychiatric Symptoms in Dementia

Behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia comprise a mixed group of symptoms and behaviours that can occur. Examples include wandering, agitation, sexually inappropriate behaviours, depression, anxiety and delusions. These symptoms may benefit from specific treatments in addition to management of the core symptoms of dementia.
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