If you are worried about a loved one, or have noticed some changes in yourself which are causing you concern, here are a few steps you can take:
First of all, don’t panic and assume the worst possible scenario. Though, you are only human if you do fear the worst. These symptoms can also be displayed for many other treatable conditions, such as a water or urinary tract infection, vitamin deficiency, depression, stress, anxiety or something as simple as dehydration. Check your fluid intake. Very few of us drink the required amount of water to stay healthy. Also, remember coffee and tea can act as a diuretic and make you dehydrate quicker.
Your next port of call should be a visit to your GP or practice nurse for a general check-up. If it is a loved one you are worried about, remember they are probably aware that things have not been right and deep down are as worried as you are, so they may be reluctant to visit the surgery. It’s important that you make it clear that it is to check for the simple things that could be causing the problems. Sometimes, a course of antibiotics, medication or help from a counsellor will solve the issues.
Your GP may perform a simple memory test and, depending on this result, may refer you to your local memory clinic. Some GPs will decide to take no further action at this stage and simply ask you to come back in six months or so to see if things have progressed. Or you may be referred to your local memory clinic or the hospital for a scan. Don’t be afraid to go back to see your doctor or the practice nurse if you feel you need more support, or your symptoms are getting worse.
It is important that you look for support as soon as possible. Waiting for the results of an assessment or for an appointment at the clinic can be a worrying time causing added stress and anxiety can make your symptoms worse, which in turn will make you fear the worst. This is the time you could be looking for the support of groups like Butterflies. You should try to keep up your hobbies, go to an art class, an exercise class, keep up your sports, carry on having fun and keep life as normal as possible as long as you are safe to do so. If you withdraw, you are risking developing depression.
When you receive the results of your assessment at the clinic or from scans, you will now have a better idea of what you are fighting. Yes – fighting! It can be a very scary time when we receive bad news. We all tend to know just a little about dementia, unfortunately we generally know about the stigma associated with it. There are ways of living positively with dementia, you can still do many of the things you have always done. There may be things you find more challenging, and you may find you need the support of your family and friends.
Don’t forget to look after yourself too. Register as a carer with your GP. Your details should then be forwarded to the Carers Service in your area. This means you will receive extra support and be sign posted to the services you need.