Dementia occurs when nerve cells in a person’s brain stop working. Although it typically happens in older people, it is not an inevitable part of aging. The brain’s natural deterioration happens to everyone as they grow older, but it occurs more quickly in people with dementia.
There are many different types of dementia. According to the National Institute on Aging, the most common is Alzheimer’s disease. Other types include:
- Lewy body dementia
- frontotemporal dementia
- vascular disorders
- mixed dementia, or a combination of types
There are 10 typical early signs of dementia. For a person to receive a diagnosis, they would usually experience two or more of these symptoms, and the symptoms would be severe enough to interfere with their daily life.
These early signs of dementia are:
1. Memory loss
A person developing dementia may have trouble remembering dates or events.
Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia.
A person with dementia may find it difficult to recall information they have recently learned, such as dates or events, or new information.
They may find they rely on friends and family or other memory aids for keeping track of things.
Most people occasionally forget things more frequently as they age. They can usually can recall them later if their memory loss is age-related and not due to dementia.
2. Difficulty planning or solving problems
A person with dementia may find it difficult to follow a plan, such as a recipe when cooking, or directions when driving.
Problem-solving may also get more challenging, such as when adding up numbers to paying bills.
3. Difficulty doing familiar tasks
A person with dementia may find it difficult to complete tasks they regularly do, such as changing settings on a television, operating a computer, making a cup of tea, or getting to a familiar location. This difficulty with familiar tasks could happen at home or work.
4. Being confused about time or place
Dementia can make it hard to judge the passing of time. People may also forget where they are at any time.
They may find it hard to understand events in the future or the past and may struggle with dates.
5. Challenges understanding visual information
Visual information can be challenging for a person with dementia. It can be hard to read, to judge distances, or work out the differences between colors.
Someone who usually drives or cycles may start to find these activities challenging.
6. Problems speaking or writing
Handwriting may become less legible as dementia progresses.
A person with dementia may find it hard to engage in conversations.
They may forget what they are saying or what somebody else has said. It can be difficult to enter a conversation.
People may also find their spelling, punctuation, and grammar get worse.
Some people’s handwriting becomes more difficult to read.
7. Misplacing things
A person with dementia may not be able to remember where they leave everyday objects, such as a remote control, important documents, cash, or their keys.
Misplacing possessions can be frustrating and may mean they accuse other people of stealing.
8. Poor judgment or decision-making
It can be hard for someone with dementia to understand what is fair and reasonable. This may mean they pay too much for things, or become easily sure about buying things they do not need.
Some people with dementia also pay less attention to keeping themselves clean and presentable.
9. Withdrawal from socializing
A person with dementia may become uninterested in socializing with other people, whether in their home life or at work.
They may become withdrawn and not talk to others, or not pay attention when others are speaking to them. They may stop doing hobbies or sports that involve other people.
10. Changes in personality or mood
A person with dementia may experience mood swings or personality changes. For example, they may become irritable, depressed, fearful, or anxious.
They may also become more disinhibited or act inappropriately.
When to see a doctor
A person who experiences any of these symptoms or notices them in a loved one should speak to a medical professional.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is a myth that cognitive functioning always gets worse as a person gets older. Signs of cognitive decline may be dementia or another illness for which doctors can provide support.
Although there is no cure for dementia yet, a doctor can help slow the progression of the disease and ease the symptoms, and so improve a person’s quality of life.