Understanding Dementia: Early Signs and Coping Strategies for Families and Caregivers

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Understanding Dementia

Dementia is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, and it can be a difficult diagnosis for both the individual experiencing it and their loved ones. The term “dementia” refers to a group of symptoms that affect memory, thinking, and behaviour. While dementia is most common in older adults, it can occur in people of all ages.

Recognising the early signs of dementia is crucial for getting a proper diagnosis and beginning treatment. In this article, we will explore the common early signs of dementia, as well as ways to cope with the diagnosis as a family member or caregiver. We believe that by promoting empathy, understanding, and support, we can help make the journey of those living with dementia and their loved ones a little easier.


Dementia can be difficult to recognize in its early stages, but there are some common signs and symptoms to look out for. 

  • Memory loss, the first signs of dementia. This can manifest as forgetting important dates or events, frequently misplacing items, or forgetting recently learned information.
  • Difficulty with language. This can include difficulty finding the right words, struggling to follow conversations, or forgetting the names of common objects.
  • Changes in mood or behaviour. Your loved one may become more apathetic, anxious, or depressed, as well as experience changes in personality or social behaviour. For example, they may become more withdrawn, irritable, or have difficulty controlling their emotions.
  • Difficulty with complex tasks. This can include difficulty with tasks that require planning, problem-solving, or decision-making, such as managing finances or cooking.
  • Disorientation. They may get lost in familiar places or become confused about the date or time. This can lead to increased anxiety and frustration for both the individual and their loved ones.
  • Poor judgement. They may become more vulnerable to suggestions, or make poor decisions, such as giving away large sums of money or falling for scams.

It’s important to note that some of these symptoms can also be a normal part of aging or due to other health conditions. However, if you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine whether they are due to dementia or another cause.

Receiving a diagnosis

Receiving a diagnosis of dementia can be a difficult and emotional experience, both for the individual and their loved ones. It’s natural to experience a sense of denial or grief when the early signs of dementia are identified. However, it’s important to remember that there are resources and strategies available to help cope with the challenges that come with dementia.

One of the first steps in coping with dementia is seeking a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional. This may involve a series of cognitive tests, physical exams, and imaging tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms. Once a diagnosis has been made, it’s important to work with the healthcare team to develop a care plan that meets the individual’s unique needs.


Navigating dementia 

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to go through this journey alone. Dementia Support Australia is a free national service that is available 24/7 to provide support and guidance for caregivers of loved ones with dementia. The service offers access to expert advice and counselling to help you navigate the challenges of caregiving. Their trained counsellors are available to talk with you on the phone, provide information on available resources, and offer guidance on how to access additional assistance if needed.

For older adults with dementia, it’s important to focus on maintaining their quality of life as much as possible. This may involve making modifications to the home environment to make it safer and more accessible, as well as ensuring that they have access to social activities and support.

As a family member or caregiver, it’s important to prioritise self-care in order to prevent burnout and maintain your own mental and physical health. This may involve seeking support from other family members or friends, joining a support group for caregivers, as well as learning about the services and resources available in your local community to support those living with all stages of dementia.

At Olivet Care in Ringwood Melbourne, we provide a caring and nurturing day care and respite program that offers a safe and supportive environment for older adults living in the community, including those with early or advanced signs of dementia. Our Day Care programs offers a range of interesting activities that promote social connection, mental stimulation, and self-expression, tailored to meet the unique needs of our residents and visitors.

Additionally, we provide residential respite care for short-term periods, allowing caregivers to take planned breaks, short holidays, attend medical procedures, or recover from illness, while their loved one continues to receive the same high standard of care. Our respite guests have access to social activities and a daily activity program, providing opportunities for engagement and socialisation.

We also have a dedicated memory support household that provide permanent care in a residential care home.

Finally, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to coping with dementia. Each individual and family will have their own unique challenges and needs. However, by seeking help and support from healthcare professionals, support groups, and loved ones, it is possible to navigate the journey of dementia with empathy, understanding, and hope.