dementia: how to spot the early signs and get support

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe progressive conditions that affect the brain, including Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal, and dementia with Lewy bodies.

There are currently 850,000 people thought to be living with dementia in the UK. By 2025, that number is estimated to rise to more than a million.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are estimated to be around 670,000 people in the UK acting as primary, unpaid carers for people with dementia. Some of these people never planned to become a carer, but took on the role when a relative or close friend was diagnosed.

Caring for someone with dementia can be hugely rewarding. But it can also be stressful and distressing.

The pressures can cause financial difficulties, relationship problems, and ill health. The good news is, there’s plenty of help and support available.

For tips on understanding dementia, how to support someone with it, and help them feel good about themselves, visit the Alzheimer's Society website.

the signs to look out for

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, it can be helpful for carers to understand the impact dementia has on the person they’re caring for - how they think and feel, and how that affects their behaviour.

Here are some of the main signs to look for:

memory problems

We all forget a name or a face sometimes, but regular forgetfulness is one of the most common signs, particularly when someone struggles to retain new information.

Other memory problems may include:

  • forgetting recent events
  • getting lost in previously familiar places
  • misplacing or losing things regularly
  • asking someone to repeat things over and over

communication

Whether spoken or written, communication can pose difficulties for those with dementia. People with dementia can often:

  • repeat themselves or struggle to find the right words
  • experience difficulties having, or joining, a conversation
  • forget what they're saying in the middle of a sentence

It can help them if you speak slower, maintain eye contact, and notice gestures and facial expressions.

Losing interest in socialising can also be a sign of dementia. Someone who’s usually outgoing may withdraw and stop wanting to see people.

They may also:

  • lose interest in hobbies or sports
  • avoid work events

cognitive abilities

time and place

People with dementia may struggle with time and place. For example, they may confuse night and day, getting up during the middle of the night thinking it's morning.

They may also start to lose track of the time of year or the seasons.

concentration

Another symptom to look out for is issues concentrating, including taking longer than usual to process information.

Or they might feel restless, finding it hard to sit still for very long.

problematic judgement

Dementia can cause problems with reasoning and the ability to make decisions, such as with financial matters. This could involve forgetting to pay the bills, impulsive spending, being easily persuaded to buy things they don’t need, or giving money away.

going shopping and paying

Problems working with numbers or keeping track of things involving numbers is another sign.

Following instructions, such as a recipe, could also be a challenge.

mood and personality

Look out for personality and mood changes, as well as mood swings and depression.

They may become:

  • aggressive, irritable, short-tempered, or easily upset
  • obsessive (such as overeating or drinking too much)
  • paranoid
  • fearful or anxious
  • increasingly suspicious

what to do next

If someone you know shows one or more of these signs, it doesn't necessarily mean they have dementia.

But if these changes have been happening for a while and are getting worse, they should speak to their GP.

if they're reluctant to visit their GP

The idea of visiting your GP for a dementia diagnosis can be frightening. As a result, some people may delay finding out.

To encourage them to see their doctor, you could offer to go with them. This could help if they have difficulties taking in, and remembering, new information.

If, however, they don’t want to see a doctor, you could contact their GP yourself to explain your concerns. Patient confidentiality means they won't be able to discuss their patient with you, but they should welcome the relevant information.

why it's important to get a diagnosis

According to the NHS, if dementia is detected early, in some cases, its progress can be slowed, meaning the person affected may be able to maintain their mental function for longer.

Getting a diagnosis can also ensure they receive the right treatment, enabling them - and their family - to get support and plans in place earlier.

There are lots of other conditions which can cause similar symptoms which a GP can diagnose and treat if necessary, too.

According to Dementia UK, treatable conditions that sometimes look like dementia but aren’t, include:

  • depression
  • vitamin B12 deficiency
  • delirium
  • thyroid problems
  • infections
  • vascular problems

Only a GP can diagnose what’s causing these symptoms, and only they can refer someone for an assessment.

how caba can help

At caba, we're working in partnership with Dementia UK to provide ICAEW members and their families access to the charity's specialist Admiral Nurses Dementia Helpline. For advice, information and support please get in touch.

other places to get support

It’s always helpful to be able to pick up the phone or go online and talk to someone who understands how you feel. Here are a few places you can go:

The Alzheimer’s Society – the National Dementia Helpline (0300 222 1122)

Run by trained advisers who provide carers with information, support, guidance, and details of other organisations that offer more specialist help.

Admiral Nursing DIRECT – the Dementia UK helpline (0845 257 9406)

Staffed by experienced Admiral Nurses who can give practical and emotional support and information about local services to carers of people with dementia.

The Carers Direct helpline (0300 123 1053)

Available to those who need help with their caring responsibilities and who want to talk to someone who understands their needs.

The helpline advisers can also give you information on things like benefits and assessments, and can put you in touch with other sources of help if you need them.

The Carers UK online forum

A community of carers who and understand the pressure you may be feeling. It’s open to all carers over the age of 18, whatever their circumstances.

Talking Point

Run by the Alzheimer’s Society, Talking Point is an online forum for carers and anyone affected by dementia. It’s a place where you can ask for advice, share information, join in discussions, and feel supported.

Local carers’ support group

If you prefer to talk to people face-to-face, you can find where your nearest support group is by contacting your local branch of the Alzheimer’s Society, or ask your memory service.

Local authority support

All carers have the right to have their needs assessed by social services. You may find you’re eligible for practical help from your local authority, such as respite care for the person you look after, or home adaptations.

To find out what help is available where you live, and to apply for a carer’s assessment, you can contact the adult social services department of the local authority where the person you’re caring for lives.

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your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)1, ACA students2, ICAEW staff members3, and the family and carers of members and students4

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is or was dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

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