Could this be the first warning sign of dementia?

It can be difficult to know if a loved-one’s forgetfulness or absentmindedness is the tip of a frightening iceberg, but

It can be difficult to know if a loved-one’s forgetfulness or absentmindedness is the tip of a frightening iceberg, but a new study from the UK has suggested there may be a tell-tale sign that a person is developing dementia, and it can happen many years before a diagnosis.

Researchers from the University College London asked friends and family of patients with frontotemporal dementia about the years leading up to their diagnosis and noticed a common thread.

Many of the people who answered the questionnaires reported that their loved one’s sense of humour had begun to change.

They reported they were more likely to laugh inappropriately at tragic events, or found sad things funny when they shouldn’t have.

Frontotemporal dementia is one of the more rare forms of the disease and it affects the part of the brain involved with personality and behaviour. The BBC reports that people with this kind of dementia are more likely to mishandle social situations, lose inhibition and become more impulsive.

Dr Camilla Clark and colleagues asked the friends or relatives of the 48 patients to rate how much they liked different kinds of comedy, including “slapstick comedy such as Mr Bean, satirical comedy such as Yes, Minister or absurdist comedy such as Monty Python“. They also asked if there were any examples of inappropriate humour.

Nearly all of the respondents said they had noticed a change in their loved-one’s sense of humour in the nine years before the dementia had been diagnosed.

The dementia patients tended to prefer slapstick to satirical humour, when compared with 21 healthy people of a similar age. Many of them had also developed a dark sense of humour.

Dr Clark said, “These were marked changes – completely inappropriate humour well beyond the realms of even distasteful humour. For example, one man laughed when his wife badly scalded herself”

More studies are now required to understand how and when changes in humour could act as a red flag for dementia.

Have you had experience with dementia? Did you notice any changes to a loved one’s sense of humour?

  1. Can’t say I noticed this, but mum did start commenting loudly about other people when out and about. Usually about how fat someone was. Previously a very well mannered lady, this was quite out of character. The loss of inhibition was a definite sign.

    • My Mum did the same, she would see a girl in a short dress and call her a tart, which was something that she would never normally do.

    • Angie Griffin  

      Mum has been doing this. Saying things about family members.

    • It’s tough Angie. Keep repeating the mantra ” it’s not mum, it’s the brain damage” ❤️

    • Know what you mean Robyn, my mum wouldn’t have hurt anyone’s feeling ever, then started saying very loudly to people how rude etc they were. I always tried to double back and apologise

  2. When I can sit through an episode of Fawlty Towers without wanting to rip my hair out, that’s when I’ll know I’ve lost it.

  3. Gosh hate the thought of 9 yrs of pre dementia playing a part life could be a constant checking up n missing the issue reckon you’d be divorced before actual diagnosis IF that was to be the end result

  4. That does it. I must have early onset dementia. I laugh at these sort of things. I have always done so.
    My motto, ” if you don’t laugh at it you would spend your life crying”…

    • On a serious note, this is not what the article is saying. It’s when your sense of humour changes and becomes inappropriate. If it always was then no sign of dementia at all. For those of us who’ve lived through it, we look back now and think “aha, that’s what that was all about”. At the time before diagnonsis you just wonder why the person you love is acting in a manner unlike their normal character.

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