Dementia isn’t a single condition but rather a term that encompasses a collection of symptoms that may affect memory, cognitive function, data processing, and communication. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), globally, 55 million people have dementia, with over 10 million new cases diagnosed annually. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, there are others. The symptoms of dementia can vary based on the underlying cause, but a few key warning signs should be given close attention.

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Dementia Warning Signs to Understand

Memory problems do not necessarily indicate dementia, and individuals must exhibit at least two related life-altering impairments to be diagnosed with dementia. In addition to memory problems, dementia patients may also have problems with language, communication, focus, reasoning, and logic.

  1. Short-term memory: Memory issues can be among the early warning signs of dementia. These subtle changes generally affect short-term memory, while long-held memories remain intact. A person with dementia may forget where they put things or forget plans they had made for the day.
  2. Difficulty finding the right words: Other early warning signs include difficulty relating thoughts, explaining a situation, or expressing emotions. Patients often stop in the middle of a sentence, struggle to continue, or may forget the meaning of common words. Conversing with a dementia patient can be challenging.
  3. Mood changes: Changing moods are also typical of dementia patients. The individual experiencing these mood swings may not have self-awareness of the issue, but close friends and relatives often do. Depression and anxiety are common in the early stages of dementia.
    People may get easily agitated if their daily routine is interrupted or they are found in unfamiliar situations. Personality shifts, such as a shy person suddenly becoming outgoing, are possible.
  4. Listlessness: Apathy is a common early sign of dementia. A dementia patient may lose interest in their favorite activities or no longer wish to go out or socialize. Even spending time with friends and family may seem lackluster to them.
  5. Difficulty finishing tasks: Completing common everyday tasks becomes difficult in the early stages of dementia. Individuals may have difficulty performing complex tasks such as keeping track of bills or following a recipe.
  6. Confusion: Someone in the early stages of dementia may become confused easily, and a wide variety of situations can initiate this confusion – such as forgetting a face or losing their car keys.
  7. Losing their way: An individual’s sense of direction and spatial orientation may begin to worsen in the beginning stages of dementia, causing them to forget familiar landmarks or find their way around town. It may also become challenging to follow directions and step-by-step instructions.
  8. Repetition: Memory loss and general behavioral changes are common early warning signs of dementia. They may perform everyday tasks compulsively, over and over – or ask the same question many times in a few minutes.
  9. Poor judgment: Another common consequence of cognitive decline is the loss of decision-making capability. A person living with dementia may not be able to recognize danger or may take ill-advised actions. Poor financial judgment is another characteristic of early-onset dementia. For instance, a lifelong, prudent person may begin handing out money to telemarketers.

Early warning signs of dementia may be as unique and varied as those who experience them. If you have an aging loved one, you may be the best authority on what behaviors are normal for them or are new and concerning. Speak with your loved one about any early warning signs you may see, and ask them to consult with their doctor. Some warning signs may not indicate dementia at all and may be treated and reversed.

A Banyan Residence is a memory care and assisted living facility located in Venice, Florida.