What are the early signs of dementia? 18 things to look out for

Common in older people, dementia is effectively a group of symptoms that begin to affect the everyday function of the brain, impacting an individual’s ability to remember, behave, and think. If you’re worried about a loved one or just want to know what to look out for, this list of 18 signs might show someone is suffering from the early stages of dementia.

Memory Loss That Disrupts Daily Life

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One of the most common signs of dementia is memory loss, and individuals may begin to forget important dates or events, ask for the same information repeatedly, and increasingly rely on memory aids. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, “dementia is caused by damage to the brain, and this damage can affect areas of the brain involved in creating and retrieving memories.”

Difficulty Planning or Solving Problems

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Some people may notice changes in their ability to develop or follow a plan as their concentration decreases, and tasks that were once easy may take longer to complete. They may also find it more difficult to work with numbers, and as a result, managing finances becomes challenging.

Familiar Tasks Become Challenging

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Even simple tasks that they’ve done for many years may become challenging for those in the early stages of dementia. This might be driving to a known location, organizing a grocery list, or remembering the rules of a simple game. If the individual is still working, this can also affect their performance at work.

Confusion With Time or Place

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People who are suffering from dementia can lose track of time, dates, and the progression of time. This can be different for each person, but NI Direct says, “They may have trouble understanding something being planned in the future. Sometimes, they may feel confused about where they are.”

Issues with Vision

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Dementia can also affect the part of the brain that enables us to see, and this can lead to difficulty with balance, reading, or distinguishing color contrasts on top of any age-related eye sight issues. Not being able to judge distances or spaces as well could also increase the risk of accidents.

Problems with Words

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Your loved one may also begin to struggle with vocabulary; this might mean they have trouble naming an object or using the wrong words. In this case, joining or following conversations might be tricky for them, and you might notice they stop talking in the middle of the conversation.

Misplacing Things

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Someone with dementia might put things in unusual places, meaning they lose them. Often, they are unable to retrace their steps to find them again, and this might cause them to become distressed and potentially accuse someone of stealing their belongings.

Poor Judgment

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As dementia starts to develop, individuals may lose their ability to make decisions, and this can lead to poor judgement about things going on around them. The Alzheimer’s Association says some examples of this may be that “they may use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.”

Withdrawal from Work or Social Activities

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Dementia affects how people think, and individuals might start to withdraw from hobbies or social activities that involve interacting with others. This can lead to social isolation as they prefer to be alone. They might also become less interested in personal or professional hobbies or passions.

Changes in Mood and Personality

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Struggling with mood swings, becoming irritable, and changes in personality are all common signs of dementia and are often more apparent in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. This can mean they become upset more easily, or they might show signs of depression, fear, or anxiety.

Increased Repetition of Stories

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Because dementia starts to damage the parts of the brain involved with memories, those suffering from it might begin to repeat the same stories. This can be word for word, and they’ll be unaware that they have already told it. This can increase and is often one of the more noticeable signs for family and friends.

Difficulty Adapting to Change

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As an individual loses their memory or struggles with the concept of where they are, they begin to fear change. Healthline says, “They might crave routine and be afraid to try new experiences. Difficulty adapting to change is also a typical symptom of early dementia.”

Loss of Initiative or Motivation

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Motivation levels can significantly drop in dementia patients, and this can affect both their personal and professional life. You may notice a loss of initiative to take part in work or engage in social activities, and they may begin to spend more time sleeping or taking part in passive activities.

Struggling with Abstract Thinking

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Tasks or hobbies that require abstract thinking may become very difficult, as people with dementia often find it particularly challenging to understand abstract concepts or engage in complex problem-solving. This can lead to problems such as mismanaged finances, as they are unable to understand or organize their money.

Forgetting the Function of Common Items

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The purpose of everyday objects can become difficult to understand, or they may forget how to use them effectively. This can pose a danger around the home, especially when it comes to appliances such as electric fires or stove tops, as they might forget how to turn them off.

Communication Difficulties

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Conversations with someone who is suffering from dementia can become challenging as they lose or forget words. They may also find themselves struggling to grasp the meaning of words. On top of this, there is sometimes a loss in the natural flow of speaking as they pause to remember words or the topic of discussion.

Inappropriate Social Behavior

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Dementia can lead to an increase in inappropriate social behavior, including disregarding social norms. This might be being insensitive to other people’s feelings, leading to inappropriate comments or exaggerated emotional responses in social settings. An example of this is that an individual may become frustrated quickly if they want to leave an event and loudly display this.

Sensory Overload

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Individuals who are suffering from dementia may become easily overwhelmed by busy environments or loud noises, which previously had little effect on them. They might also become more sensitive to lighting, especially bright lights or sudden changes in lighting, which can cause confusion.

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