It is very common to worry about memory.

Most people become more forgetful as they grow older, and many find it harder to learn new information quickly.  This is a normal part of the ageing process .

Many people worry if they walk into a room and cannot remember what they have come in for. They may feel frustrated that they can’t get the hang of new technology as quickly as they would like, and forget names of people they have recently met – or known for years.   
All this is normal.  

However, sometimes symptoms are more serious and do need to be investigated, if only to rule out other conditions.

Tiredness, stress, emotional upheavals, anxiety and depression can all affect memory in the short term. 

Urinary tract infections, vitamin B12 deficiency, and other medical conditions can also lead to a confused state, or even to delirium which is often confused with dementia, but which is shortlived and reversible.

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms caused by damage to brain cells. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Other types of dementia are vascular dementia, Lewy Body disease, and fronto-temporal dementia - and there are many more.

They all involve a progressive decline in the ability of the brain to function well. Memory, thinking and reasoning skills are all affected, although different people experience different early symptoms according to the type of dementia and where the damage is in the brain.

The earliest symptoms of dementia may be similar to that of normal ageing, such as forgetting the words of familiar objects.

Signs of dementia

Signs of more serious problems that should be investigated include:

  • Forgetting, not just the details of an event or a conversation, but that it has happened at all
  • Losing the thread of a conversation so that it is impossible to carry on
  • Losing your way in a familiar places
  • Forgetting to attend appointments or events that are part of the normal routine of life
  • Losing items and being unable to retrace steps or think logically where they may be
  • Serious sleep disturbance and confusion about the time of day
  • Signs and symptoms which are uncharacteristic of you.

It is time to seek help when...

  • Symptoms start to interfere with everyday life and routines
  • Symptoms affect mood, eg becoming irritable when a task requires concentration, becoming anxious in social situations or withdrawing from activities that would normally be enjoyed.

Talk to your GP

Talk to your GP if you are concerned about dementia in yourself or a family member.  Make a note of the reasons for your concerns, with as much detail as possible. If the GP suspects dementia, he or she will carry out tests and ask about what has been happening in everyday life. 

If the eventual diagnosis is a form of dementia, you will be offered support and, in many cases, medication which can help to slow symptoms.

Many people who are diagnosed with dementia find they can lead a good quality of life with the right support.

How we can help

If you live in Wiltshire, Alzheimer Support’s Dementia Advisers can tell you more about the range of services and support that is available in the community.

We’ve also developed an online guide to being diagnosed with dementia in Wiltshire. It contains a downloadable symptoms checker and information about what to expect when you see the GP and other healthcare professionals 

The Wiltshire Dementia Roadmap