FORGET – A tool for recognising the symptoms of dementia
Forgetfulness is the most common symptom of dementia, but becoming a bit forgetful is part of the natural ageing process for many people.
There are many factors that can lead to forgetfulness. For example, retirement can bring a significant change to the routine of an individual, as can losing a loved one. As a result, we may not register information as well as we usually would, and this can take several months to overcome.
As the number of dementia cases in the UK continues to rise significantly, it is important that we are familiar with the symptoms. An early diagnosis can play a crucial part in accessing future care and treatment. It can also help the person and their families to receive practical and timely information, advice and guidance as they face new challenges. Receiving an early diagnosis can enable the person to plan ahead whilst they are still able to make important decisions on their care and support needs and on financial and legal matters.
Dr Raja Badrakalimuthu, a consultant old age psychiatrist and Dementia Carers Count trustee, has developed the FORGET model; an acronym that can be used as a tool for recognising symptoms of dementia.
As previously mentioned, forgetfulness is the most common symptom of dementia. This can become apparent when a person fails to recognise familiar faces.
There is no definitive example of ‘odd behaviour’; it can present itself in different ways depending upon the characteristics of the person. However, if a person begins engaging in activities that are not part of their usual repertoire, this could be considered out-of-character. Changes to a persons thoughts or beliefs could also be considered as ‘odd behaviour’.
Most of us that are, or have been, familiar with someone with dementia will know that often the person will repeatedly ask for the same question or need reminding on several occasions. A reduced vocabulary can also be an indication of changes to the persons behaviour.
Issues around grooming can be variable. Sometimes people can become disorientated with time. For example, the person could wake up on a morning believing they need to go to work even though they have been retired for several years, and although they may be physically able to groom themselves, it could be considered to be inappropriate behaviour in terms of context.
In addition, changes to a persons appearance could be a recognisable symptom of dementia. This could be not shaving as regularly as they once did, not visiting the salon as regularly, or not changing clothes for periods of time.
Evening restlessness or early evening restlessness can also be referred to as Sundowning, and is very common in people with dementia. For a person with dementia, their brain can get tired during the early evening, resulting in irritable and sometimes aggressive behaviour.
As dementia progresses the person can become incontinent and, in some cases, this can also be the starting point of a dementia diagnosis.
It’s important to remember that dementia is a clinical diagnosis and some of these symptoms (not all) should be persistent for at least six months, and as a consequence there should be some degree of functional decline for the person.
In this video, Dr Raja Badrakalimuthu explains the thought process behind the FORGET model and also what the person with dementia, and their families and friends, can expect at the point of diagnosis: