Dementia often develops slowly and the early signs are not always obvious. Symptoms similar to dementia can be seen in other illnesses. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell apart dementia from the usual mild forgetfulness seen in normal ageing.
Alzheimer’s, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia are all neurodegenerative diseases, meaning that the symptoms get worse over time. This is usually the case with vascular dementia too. The speed of change varies between people and also between different diseases, but in most cases, dementia symptoms progress slowly over several years.
As dementia progresses:
- People may find that their ability to remember, think and make decisions worsen.
- Communication and language often become more difficult.
- A person’s behaviour may change and some people can become sad or demoralised.
- Anxieties or phobias are quite common.
- Problems with time perception may cause problems with sleeping and restlessness at night.
- Anger or agitation is common in the later stages of dementia.
- It is common for people to be unsteady on their feet and fall more often.
- Gradually people require more help with daily activities like dressing, toileting and eating.
The NHS provides a dementia guide for ways of detecting the initial symptoms of dementia.