Dementia care: Sleep disturbances, memory loss and difficulty planning are key early signs

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Dementia is the name given to a group of symptoms linked to an ongoing decline in brain function. You could be at risk of the neurodegenerative condition if experiencing any of these three key early signs.

Sleep disturbances

Having a troubled sleep is a key early sign of dementia.

As Dementia UK explains, many people with Lewy body dementia experience REM sleep behaviour disorder, which can cause vivid nightmares and violent movements during the night, insomnia, excessive daytime sleeping and restless leg syndrome.

Understanding the link between dementia and sleep disturbances

According to Dementia UK, these problems arise as dementia can affect the part of the brain that controls our circadian rhythms, otherwise known as our body clock.

Memory loss

Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia

A person with dementia may find it difficult to remember and recall information.

Alzheimer’s Society said on their website: “People with dementia will often experience difficulties with their memory which interfere with their day-to-day activities.

“This memory loss is often due to damage in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which plays a very important role in memory. Damage to different parts of the brain will affect different kinds of memory.”

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Difficulty planning or solving problems

A person with dementia may find it difficult to follow a plan and problem-solving may also get more challenging.

Developing a list of alternative strategies and having someone else to look at the situation and give suggestions will help with these problems.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, you might start to have trouble with regular tasks that you had at work, trouble problem solving with minor issues, or difficulty planning a schedule or planning long-term, said Alzheimer’

The health site added: “While some memory loss is typical of old age, impairment in problem-solving or with planning is not.”

Who carries a higher genetic risk of Alzheimer’s?

According to the Alzheimer’s Society (AS), in just over 600 families worldwide, studies reveal many close family members who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease across successive generations.

“This pattern of ‘familial clustering’ of Alzheimer’s disease suggests there is a mutation within a single gene that causes the disease,” explains the AS.

It adds: “In these cases, the mutation is being passed down in the DNA from parent to child, across several generations.”

If several of your family members have developed dementia over the generations, and particularly at a young age, you may want to seek genetic counselling for information and advice about your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease when you’re older, advises the NHS.

Lower risk

Looking after your health, cutting out smoking and being physically active on a regular basis will help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, said Alzheimer’s Research.

The health site continued: “It’s likely you’ll be lowering your risk of dementia too, particularly vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

For good heart health:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control
  • Be active and exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet
  • Drink fewer than 14 units of alcohol per week.

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