10 Symptoms That Could Be Early Signs Of Dementia

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Hands of older woman doing a puzzle
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Dementia describes a variety of symptoms that affect a person’s cognitive functioning severely enough to interfere with daily life. Several disorders fall under this umbrella term, but Alzheimer’s is the most common form, which accounts “for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases” according to AARP

Dementia causes chronic memory loss and personality changes and affects your ability to think, remember, and reason. The decline in mental function is irreversible, incurable, and tends to get worse over time. However, with early detection, progression can be managed or slowed. Here are 10 typical early warning signs to watch out for.

Dementia causes chronic memory loss and personality changes and affects your ability to think, remember, and reason. The decline in mental function is irreversible, incurable, and tends to get worse over time. However, with early detection, progression can be managed or slowed. Here are 10 typical early warning signs to watch out for.

Disclaimer: These are symptoms, not a diagnosis. Please discuss concerns with your doctor.

Memory Loss

“Senior moments” are a natural part of aging. It may take you longer to remember someone’s name, but usually, it will come to you with time. It’s tricky though because memory loss is often one of the first signs of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. Trouble remembering new information, dates, events, or asking the same question over and over, or increasingly relying on memory aids (reminder notes or electronic devices) may indicate a developing cognitive problem. For example, they might remember their wedding day clear as a bell, but can’t recall what they ate for dinner the night before. Often, friends and family will notice severe and persistent memory loss that disrupts daily life before the person experiencing the symptoms themselves.

Challenges Planning or Solving Problems

Another early sign of dementia is having trouble developing or following a plan, like a recipe or directions. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to work with numbers, like keeping track of finances and paying bills. Problem-solving may also get more challenging, perhaps because it’s harder to concentrate, so it might take more time to do things than it used to.  

Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks

Everyday tasks they used to perform as part of their routine at home or work become challenging. Familiar things like using the TV remote or computer, cleaning, cooking, finding a location like a grocery store can become foreign.

Confusion About Time or Place

According to Medical News Today, “Dementia can make it hard to judge the passing of time.” 

Confusion or disorientation about time can include losing track of the date, or what season it is. People living with Alzheimer’s may forget where they are or how they got there. They may find it hard to understand events in the future or the past that are not happening immediately.

Trouble Understanding Visual Information and Spatial Relationships

Dementia also does damage to the visual system, which affects how the brain processes information. Visuoperceptual difficulties include problems accurately judging distances, reading, or differentiating colors, causing issues with driving. For example, they might mistake a coat hanging on a coat rack for a person. 

New Problems with Words

As dementia progresses, people may find their vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and handwriting get worse. They might not be able to recall the name of something or use the wrong name for a familiar object. People with dementia struggle to communicate verbally or in writing, making it hard to participate in conversations. According to Medical News Today, “They may forget what they are saying or what somebody else has said.” In a worksheet that lists the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association notes that “They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue, or repeat themselves.” 

Misplacing things

We all lose our wallet, keys, or cell phone from time to time, but we’re able to retrace our steps to find them. A person with dementia may put everyday objects, such as a remote control or important documents in unusual places, forget their secret hiding spot, and then be unable to retrace their steps to find the missing item. Losing stuff is frustrating for anyone, but as the disease progresses, he or she may accuse others of stealing.

Decreased or Poor Judgment, Reasoning or Decision-Making

Dementia may change an individual’s ability to judge what is fair and reasonable and make decisions. Examples include buying stuff they don’t need, paying too much for something, or even paying less attention to their appearance.

Withdrawal 

Because it’s hard to hold a conversation, a person with dementia may withdraw from work, social activities, hobbies, or other engagements. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “ They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite team or activity.” 

Mood Swings or Personality Changes

A person with dementia may become irritable, depressed, fearful, or anxious. They may become upset more easily. According to Medical News Today, “They may also become more disinhibited or act inappropriately.”