What are the signs that someone has dementia?
It’s hard to interpret if you’re not familiar with them, which is why a new checklist by Alzheimer’s Society is such a useful new tool.
It’s a survey with 19 questions on everything from memory loss to mood and behaviour and everyday activities.
Once you’ve completed it, you can print out the results or have them sent in an email. You would then take it to a GP or other health professional to get their advice.
In my experience
I’m no expert on dementia but I have experienced it at first hand in my own family.
I certainly wish I’d had this tool a few years ago. It was impossible to know whether there was genuinely something wrong or if we were just seeing the normal signs of ageing.
I could see it as a way of assessing a stubborn family member, or engaging with them if they agree to fill it in.
Anyone who is worried about a loved one would also be able to quickly assess them, pending a medical opinion, without having to spend hours researching symptoms online.
In my case, it sadly took years to get a referral for a memory assessment, partly because COVID made GP appointments so difficult.
But even if you do get a formal diagnosis, you’ll still have to help the person with practical support both before and afterwards.
That’s why it’s best to get Lasting Powers of Attorney in place as soon as feasibly possible. Again, there is a waiting time of around 6 months for these to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, and therefore legal.
If someone loses capacity, they won’t be able to make Lasting Powers of Attorney. So don’t wait around to see what happens, because you don’t want to risk the person losing capacity and not be able to make them.
When to stop driving
The other reason to act promptly is because driving ability is impaired by dementia.
It can be very hard to persuade someone to stop driving, particularly if they think they’re OK. It represents a genuine loss of freedom.
But if discussions about dementia are taking place with a GP, they may refer the patient for a driving assessment. The outcome of this may be that the person is banned from driving.
This may well come as a blow but, in my opinion, it is preferable that person injuring themselves or others on the road.
Having dementia doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop driving – Alzheimer’s Society has more information on driving and dementia here.