‘Still Alice’ and early signs of dementia

Do you remember ‘Still Alice’, the incredibly sad 2014 film about a woman’s struggle with early-onset dementia? There’s a scene near the beginning when Alice goes out running and suddenly realises she doesn’t know where she is. It’s a route she runs most days, so it’s not unfamiliar. She just doesn’t recognise it any more and is completely lost. And very frightened.

Like memory loss and confusion over words, disorientation is one of the early signs of dementia. Of course, it won’t always necessarily be dementia – difficulty remembering, or feeling a bit befuddled are normal parts of the ageing process, as many of us know! It could just be mild cognitive impairment, which is common as we get older, but it’s well worth getting it checked out by a doctor.

If it is dementia, seeking help for your loved one at an early stage is important. There are many organisations that offer invaluable help and information. You might want to take legal and financial planning advice, too, so that you can make sure your love one gets the care and support they need, when they need it.

Are you noticing early signs of dementia in your parents or older relatives? Share your thoughts and tips.

Best wishes,

Simplyhealth Care for Life team

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5 Replies

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  • Such a sad film and certainly resonates with me and our family situation.. Grandad has good and bad days - sometimes he can make us all laugh with the things he says and does, other times it is upsetting when he forgets our names or when we visit as he sometimes thinks we leave him for days at a time.

    I don't think as a family we took the early signs as serious as we could have as it was the odd thing here and there. With other health issues, it just seemed one thing on top of another and we didn't want to worry him. But being honest, open and seeking help sooner may have help him come to terms with his changes sooner and given us more time to understand what dementia is and what we can do to make things a little easier.

    For me the important thing to remember is not to take it personally, and to try and make him smile as much as possible.

    :0)

  • Difficult to know to what extent Dad's forgetfulness is just his excellent memory slowing down and to what extent it may be more concerning. He forgets words / names occasionally, and seems sufficiently frustrated that this probably happens when we're not there (see him only every few months). Most worrying was when he arrived a week early (!) for a visit to my sister - just one of those things, or something more?

  • It is a fine line between becoming a bit forgetful and dementia - how do we know what to look for? My mum hardly ventures outside so getting lost isn't an issue but writing her Christmas cards this year has become a mission.

  • It's not always older relatives as well, my mum was diagnosed aged 50, she was working full time and doctors advised it was the menopause causing her loss of memory. After being mis diagnosed twice. It took two years to finally find out she had Alzheimer's. Always go with your gut feel regarding if you believe a relative has dementia. The hardest thing is actually getting them to the doctors as they normally believe they are fine and with DPA it makes it hard for a relative to discuss with their doctor. Lots of support groups can help Dementia Advice Service in Andover are really supportive. Attend a Dementia Friends session to gain an understanding of what it is like to live with Dementia and how you can support a loved one.

  • Loved this film and brought back memories of my parents when they started to suffer with Alzheimer's before it was diagnosed. The little things then made sense when they were finally diagnosed, like taking my favourite clothes to the charity shop instead of the cleaners, loosing their car in car parks so we would spend hours looking for it and forgetting to pick my son up from nursery, which was all just put down to old age at the time. Then when they went missing for 3 days in their car on the way back from a family visit in Wales, it all got a bit frightening and serious. Thankfully they were found driving around at silly o'clock in the morning by the police, who took them straight to A&E to get checked over. Only then did they realise that my Dad was in the stages of Alzheimer's but didn't inform us his family, so it was a while before we could get the support he needed as he was too stubborn and proud to believe he had a problem so just didn't go to any appointments until they contacted us. My life then became one of a carer situation and as a single parent with small children put a real strain on family life. Then one day my Dad was found early in the morning bruised and lost in town and we had to finally get him admitted to the Alan Gardner unit in Andover for his own safety. Once admitted my Mum went down hill quickly and it was then discovered that she had worse Alzheimer's than my Dad but it was hidden because we had only been focussed on him. Eventually we found a home that would take them as a couple which was really unusual and they lived there until they both passed.

    I still miss them every day and hope that when I see those signs in myself, although the thought horrifies me, I hope that through my own experience, I can make things easier for my family, seek help early and try to curb the frustration that a sufferer goes through which they then take out on those closest to them.

    I am always hopeful that one day they will find a cure for this cruel disease...

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