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Published on: December 25, 2015
by Laura Donnelly for The Telegraph:
Alzheimer’s charities are expecting a 60 per cent rise in calls after Christmas as families who rarely see elderly relatives finally notice signs of dementia.
Figures from the Alzheimer’s Society show that January is the busiest month for enquiries, with a surge in calls after the festive season.
The charity said families often contacted them in January after spending time with elderly relatives over Christmas, and noticing worrying symptoms which could signal dementia.
The statistics show that last year there was a 60 per cent leap in call numbers between December and January.
The month is the busiest month by far for calls, with 5,600 enquiries received last January, plus a significant rise in online research.
Experts said families often feared dementia when in fact the changes they noticed – such as occasionally forgetting names, or why they had entered a room, could be put down to old age.
Other possible signs of dementia – such as losing interest in things, or repetitive and obsessive behaviour, were often missed, the charity said.
Jeremy Hughes, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We know dementia is the most feared illness for many, and there’s no question that it can have a devastating impact on people, their family and friends.
“It’s important we tackle confusion around what are and aren’t signs of dementia, and help give people confidence in approaching loved ones about their concerns so people don’t delay getting help.”
A survey of 4,000 people found 72 per cent did recognise that repeatedly forgetting names of family members and everyday objects could be a sign of dementia.
But nearly two thirds also thought putting everyday objects in the wrong place, such as a mug of tea in the cupboard could mean someone has dementia.
The charity said such absent- minded mistakes are relatively common.
Confusion about the order in which day to day tasks are carried out – such as the order in which to make a cup of tea – was more likely to indicate dementia, experts said.
Four in 10 people thought that forgetting why they have walked into a room might be a sign, which the charity said could happen to anyone.
Experts said a more worrying symptom would be if the room itself seemed unfamiliar. Only four in ten people felt compulsive or repetitive behaviour could be a sign of dementia.
However, a change in behaviour showing repetitive, compulsive or ritualised behaviours, which can include repeated use of phrases or gestures, or repeatedly asking the same question, can be a sign of dementia.
The charity said occasionally forgetting the name of a person, thing or place was unlikely to mean dementia and more likely to be a product of an ageing memory.
Signs of dementia which are not well-known include mispronouncing words or stuttering, and losing an interest in things you once enjoyed.
A smaller survey of people affected by dementia showed that over half waited at least six to twelve months after noticing dementia symptoms before seeking help.
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