Families and dementia symptoms
When people live together, or see each other all the time, it can be harder to notice subtle changes that occur to memory and thinking. Sometimes these changes can be more apparent to family members who see each other less often, as the changes seem more markedly different. You may notice early signs and symptoms of dementia when you come together for annual celebrations such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
Common signs and symptoms of dementia you may notice in a family member could include changes to:
- Progressive and frequent memory loss
- Personality change
- Apathy and withdrawal
- Loss of ability to perform everyday tasks.
If you think your family member may have the signs and symptoms of dementia, ensure they visit their local doctor as soon as possible to discuss the signs and symptoms. If they don’t have a regular doctor, you can find one by searching on Health Direct.
Everyone’s experience of dementia is different. There is a lot of variability in the type and severity of symptoms each person experiences, and this may change from day to day.
Why is important to support your family member to seek a diagnosis?
In some sections of the community, there is a misconception that little that can be done for people who receive a dementia diagnosis. This can lead to delays in help-seeking either for themselves or their loved ones. However, early detection and diagnosis is important to increase the number of treatment and rehabilitation options and help the person and their family to adjust to their diagnosis and better prepare for the future. For example, read about the strategies and treatments to help with managing the symptoms of dementia; supporting wellbeing and making plans and decisions.
Family reactions to the dementia diagnosis
It can be difficult to communicate the dementia diagnosis to other family members, but sharing the diagnosis helps everyone to come to terms with it and ultimately ensures the person with dementia gets the support they need. For strategies on this website, read: 2.8 Sharing the diagnosis with family and friends.
Hopefully, most family and friends will be supportive and helpful, but some may not know what to say and avoid the topic. Others may be disbelieving and question whether the person really has dementia. For more information and strategies on this website, read: 2.7 Reactions of family and friends to the diagnosis.
Family support after a dementia diagnosis
Some people with dementia describe their carers or family members as over-protective – they do too much for them or take over, but they don’t want to say anything because they don’t want to seem ungrateful or hurt the other person’s feelings. Where possible, it should be up to the person diagnosed with dementia to decide how they do or don’t want to be supported by family. For more information read 2.13 Manage how you do and don’t want to be treated.
Resources for families
Dementia Australia have produced the Families and friends matter booklet with information, tips and strategies on staying connected to people living with dementia.
Dementia Australia also offer a Family Relationships and Dementia Expert Webinar, available in all states. Check the Dementia Australia Events Calendar for other educational programs (including the Living with Dementia program) available online, or in your area.