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Dementia Friends Canada is a national campaign that’s helping Canadians to learn a little about dementia, and then turn that understanding into simple actions that can improve the lives of people living with dementia.

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The warning signs that someone may be developing dementia can take many forms, and they don’t always involve loss of memory.

These scenarios will help you recognize some of the early signs of dementia, and offer some tips on what you can do to help.


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Kitchen


Whether it’s cooking, cleaning, eating or just relaxing, people spend a lot of time in their kitchens.

Click on the flowers to learn how symptoms of dementia might make themselves known here.

A person with dementia may experience confusion with numbers. For example, they may have trouble telling the time or experience difficulty in gauging the passage of time.

Tip: If you observe this, offer them gentle reminders of specific moments throughout the day, like breakfast, lunch or dinner. This provides their day with order and a more clear sense of time.

Making coffee is the kind of habitual task that becomes difficult for some people in the early stages of dementia. They may forget to add water, add coffee or forget to turn the machine on.

Tip: Support them in continuing with this task by gently prompting them throughout the process.

A person developing symptoms of dementia may frequently misplace things or put them in places where they don’t belong.

Tip: If you notice this happening, don’t call attention to it, but be prepared to look for cases of it happening. This can be another opportunity to gently assist the person by making the task of putting groceries or dishes away something you do together.

A person may lose the ability to do something as routine as turning the stove off after use, and the colour and contrast of the appliance can make it more difficult for them to detect whether it’s on or off. This is where a person’s dementia symptoms may endanger themselves and others.

Tip: Put a simple reminder in the form of a note on the stove, or on the doorframe leading out of the kitchen that reads, “Is stove off?”


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Restaurant


Restaurants and other places where people go to relax and socialize present environments uniquely suited to revealing early dementia symptoms.

Click on the flowers to learn more.

Dementia may cause a person to become overwhelmed by the number of choices, what they are, and what they should order.

Tip: If you see someone having a difficult time, you could start a conversation by asking them what they like, or even making a suggestion. You’ll be assisting them without making them feel self-conscious.

Dementia can affect a person’s ability to perform simple financial transactions, such as paying the cashier from the cash they are carrying. This can seriously affect their sense of independence.

Tip: If you know someone who’s facing this challenge, you could gently encourage them to use a credit card as a way of overcoming the problem. Or, if you can, offering to pay is a good way to help.

Music and the conversation of patrons is part of the experience of going out, but for a person developing dementia, it can be overwhelming. It may lead them to avoid visiting an old favourite spot.

Tip: You can go with the person and provide a reassuring presence, engaging them in conversation. If it persists, you can suggest a quieter destination, or ask to have the music turned down. By explaining the situation, you may help to increase awareness and understanding.


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Office


Many of us spend more time at work than we do anywhere else. Early symptoms of dementia may make themselves known in that environment.

To learn more, click on the flowers.

The lighting at offices tends to be brighter than at home, and the person with dementia may develop a heightened sensitivity to the lighting that makes it difficult for them.

Tip: Work with the individual to explore the options for alternate lighting.

Many of us use reminders, both in the form of notes and electronic messages. You may notice a person with dementia expressing frustration for missing appointments even though they were using reminders.

Tip: Being aware of the person’s challenges and letting them know you’re there to support them is a great way to help. Coming by the person’s desk on the way to a meeting to pick them up and go together is a practical way to assist.

Doing something as routine as operating a phone, transferring calls, etc., may become difficult for a person developing symptoms of dementia. Mobile phones, although capable of being configured with dementia-friendly apps, can be especially difficult.

Tip: If possible, explore the possibility of switching to a landline connection. Landline phones can be easier to use. They also help redirect the person’s attention from the sometimes-overwhelming features of a mobile phone.

The person developing dementia may find the normal noise level at the workplace caused by others’ conversation and working distracting. It may make it difficult to concentrate.

Tip: If you notice a colleague experiencing these kinds of challenges, you can speak privately with them to let them know you’re there to offer support. You can also tell other colleagues to be mindful when gathering near the person with dementia.


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Driving


Driving a vehicle can be a demanding task at the best of times. Early signs that a person is developing dementia may become apparent.

Click on the flowers to learn what to look for.

When driving, a person experiencing dementia may find it difficult to process the information quickly enough on road signs. As a result, they may easily become lost and be unaware of speed limits and other important information.

Tip: You can help the person when driving with them by helping create a calm environment without distractions, such as the radio. You can also, in a conversational way, comment on road signs to help the person with dementia process them in a timely manner.

For some people with dementia, it becomes much more difficult to judge distances and understand spatial relationships.

Tip: You can suggest the person with dementia not try to park in tight spots, and you may offer to get out of the vehicle and help them park it with hand signals.

A person with dementia may experience difficulty following a simple driving route, even if they’ve driven it many times before. They may find themselves becoming lost much more often.

Tip: You can offer to accompany them and act as a navigator. This can even be done in a subtle fashion, by offering cues such as, “Now, this is where you usually turn, isn’t it?”


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Public Transit


People with dementia may experience difficulties taking public transit, even if it’s a very familiar route they’ve been taking for a long time.

Click on the flowers to learn what signs of dementia may become apparent here.

A person with dementia may have difficulty getting on the right bus, or getting off at the correct spot. Even if it’s a routine they’re familiar with, they can become confused about transit vehicle numbers and street names.

Tip: If someone looks confused, ask them where they wish to go and help them to determine whether they’re on the right bus.

Some people with dementia begin to experience difficulties telling the time or perceiving the passage of time. This can make taking public transit a challenge.

Tip: If you notice this happening, don’t call attention to it, but be prepared to look for cases of it happening. This can be another opportunity to gently assist the person by making the task of putting groceries or dishes away something you do together.

Disorientation can affect a person with dementia, causing them to become lost in a place even if it’s familiar to them. They also may have trouble maneuvering the stairs of a bus or stairs at the station.

Tip: If you see someone who looks confused or who is having trouble on the stairs, offer your arm to help them.

Dementia may make it difficult for a person with dementia to plan their route using a map.

Tip: If you know someone with dementia who takes public transit, try to make sure they know their route, perhaps using electronic or written reminders. If you see someone who looks confused while looking at a map, ask if you can help them.

Kitchen

Whether it’s cooking, cleaning, eating or just relaxing, people spend a lot of time in their kitchens.

Click on the flowers to learn how symptoms of dementia might make themselves known here.

Restaurant

Restaurants and other places where people go to relax and socialize present environments uniquely suited to revealing early dementia symptoms.

Click on the flowers to learn more.

Office

Many of us spend more time at work than we do anywhere else. Early symptoms of dementia may make themselves known in that environment.

To learn more, click on the flowers.

Driving

Driving a vehicle can be a demanding task at the best of times. Early signs that a person is developing dementia may become apparent.

Click on the flowers to learn what to look for.

Public Transit

People with dementia may experience difficulties taking public transit, even if it’s a very familiar route they’ve been taking for a long time.

Click on the flowers to learn what signs of dementia may become apparent here.

Should someone be displaying signs of dementia, seek the advice of a physician as soon as possible. An early diagnosis can make all the difference.

Become a Dementia Friend.

A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia, and turns that understanding into simple actions that help people with dementia live well.