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Signs that dementia is getting worse

by | Mar 11, 2024 | Dementia

People with dementia have different problems, and their abilities can worsen at different speeds. Their abilities can change daily or even within the same day. However, their abilities will undoubtedly deteriorate quickly in a few months or slowly over several years. 

Dementia is often divided into three stages, but not all people will experience all stages. These stages are called early dementia, moderate dementia, and advanced dementia.

Early dementia is often only noticed later on. It can be missed or attributed to old age or being overworked. Dementia usually starts slowly, making it hard to pinpoint when it began. During this phase, a person may seem less interested in things, not wanting to try new activities, and struggling to adapt to change. 

They may also need better judgment, take longer to understand complex ideas and need help with routine tasks. They might blame others for lost items, become more self-centred, and forget recent events. 

They may repeat themselves or lose track of their conversations. Additionally, they may become more easily irritated or upset when they fail at something and have trouble managing money.

In moderate dementia, the problems become more noticeable and disabling. The person may need to remember recent events and need clarification about time and place. They may also get lost if they are not in familiar surroundings and need to remember the names of family and friends. 

They might need to avoid mixing up family members and remembering things like saucepans and kettles on the stove, which can be dangerous. They may wander the streets, especially at night, and sometimes get lost. They might misbehave, like going outside in their nightwear. 

They may also start seeing or hearing things that are not there and become repetitive. They might neglect their hygiene and eating habits and become angry, upset, or distressed due to frustration.

In the advanced stage of dementia, the person is very disabled and requires complete care. They may be unable to remember things, even just a few minutes ago. They may also lose their ability to speak and understand others. They may have trouble controlling their bladder and bowels. 

They may not recognise their loved ones and need help with basic tasks like eating, bathing, and dressing. They may have trouble recognising everyday objects and sleeping at night. They may become restless and act aggressively when feeling threatened or trapped. They may have difficulty walking and may eventually need a wheelchair. They may have uncontrollable movements and become bedridden in the final weeks or months.

As seniors with advanced dementia reach the final stage, they will need full-time care at home or in a care facility. This stage, late-stage or advanced dementia, significantly affects memory, communication, and daily activities. As a caregiver, you will face new physical and mental challenges as your loved one enters this stage. Identifying signs of end-stage dementia early will help you anticipate when additional support is needed.

End-stage dementia is when people can no longer communicate, and their physical abilities decline, so they need help with daily tasks. Even though someone may show signs that they are nearing the end of life, they can still live with these symptoms for months or even years.

These symptoms include sleeping a lot, getting infections more often, having trouble recognising family and friends, thinking they are in a different period, difficulty eating and swallowing, becoming weaker and less able to move, and speaking less often. The life expectancy for someone with end-stage dementia can be one to three years, depending on gender, age at diagnosis, how the disease progresses, how severe it is, and if they have other serious illnesses. The type of dementia someone has can also affect how quickly the disease gets worse.

Late-stage dementia symptoms can indicate that a person is nearing the end of their life. It is essential to recognise these symptoms to ensure proper care. Some signs include needing help with daily activities, eating less and having difficulty swallowing, speaking in nonsensical phrases, being unable to walk or stand without assistance, experiencing bladder and bowel incontinence, and having limited understanding. Family caregivers may find it challenging to provide the necessary care for someone in this stage of dementia.

Palliative care provides comfort and pain relief for people with serious illnesses. Regardless of life expectancy, it is available to anyone and does not require giving up treatment. The main focus is on improving quality of life and managing symptoms. Additional services may include nutritional guidance, pain relief medication, discussions about end-of-life expectations, and holistic support for the patient and their loved ones. 

Palliative care can be provided in hospitals, outpatient clinics, patients’ homes, and nursing homes. It can begin during a dementia diagnosis and is an option if ongoing treatment is not practical.

Signs of ageing and dementia are not the same. Ageing may include forgetting names or appointments, making money errors, needing help with technology, feeling down or resistant to change, having temporary confusion about the day, changes in eyesight, difficulty finding words, occasional bad decisions, and being hesitant to go out socially. 

Suppose you have any of the following symptoms. In that case, it’s essential to talk to your doctor: memory loss that affects daily life, forgetting recent events, difficulty with familiar tasks, confusion about time or place, trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, new problems with words in speaking or writing, misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps, decreased or poor judgement, withdrawal from work or social activities, and changes in mood and personality.

Recognising the signs that dementia is worsening in Singapore is crucial for patients and their caregivers. The decline in cognitive abilities, such as memory loss and confusion, increased agitation, and difficulty performing daily tasks, are clear indicators of worsening dementia. Individuals need to seek medical attention promptly when these signs become evident, as early intervention can help slow down the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for both patients and their loved ones.

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Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.

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