The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Early symptoms can vary from individual to individual and whilst one thinks that only memory loss is associated with dementia it is important to know what the other signs are that one should look out for. If you or your loved one is experiencing memory problems, don’t immediately conclude that it’s dementia. A person needs to have at least two types of impairment that significantly interfere with everyday life to receive a dementia diagnosis. Recognising these signs as early as possible will assist you in caring for family members living with dementia and also prepare you for making decisions about placing them in a trusted dementia care facility such as Livewell.
Everyone forgets some things sometimes. But your loved one may have dementia if you notice these kinds of lapses.
- Does the person ask repetitive questions or retell stories within minutes of the first mention?
- Does he forget the names of recent acquaintances or younger family members, such as grandchildren?
- Are memory lapses growing progressively worse (such as affecting information that was previously very well known)?
- Are they happening more frequently (several times a day or within short periods of time)?
- Is this forgetfulness unusual for the person (such as sudden memory lapses in someone who prided herself on never needing grocery lists or an address book)?
Having problems with memory is the first and foremost symptom noticed. It’s a typical dementia symptom to forget things learned recently (such as the answer to a question, an intention to do something, or a new acquaintance) but to still be able to remember things from the remote past (such as events or people from childhood, sometimes with explicit detail).
Changes in mood or personality
Mood shifts are a difficult sign to link decisively to dementia because age and any medical condition may spark changes in someone’s mood, personality or behavior. In combination with other dementia symptoms, however, changes such as being withdrawn, mood swings, anxiety, frustration and depression may contribute to a suspicion of the dementia. A person with dementia may also become restless and/or aggressive, but usually in later stages of the disease.
Difficulty completing familiar activities
Dementia is especially suspect when the difficult or abandoned activity is something the person formerly delighted in and excelled at, or used to engage in frequently. Things such as preparing meals, being less engaged in hobbies and stopping a particular talent can be early warning signs to look out for.
There are numerous other signs to look out for such as misplacing items, poor or impaired judgement, bad money management, disoriented in familiar environments, getting lost in public, trouble following along with a discussion and forgetting commonly used words.
Many types of dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse. If you or a loved one is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don’t ignore them. See a doctor soon to determine the cause. Professional evaluation may detect a treatable condition. And even if symptoms suggest dementia, early diagnosis allows a person to get the maximum benefit from available treatments and it also provides time to plan for the future.
If you feel that your loved one may be affected by dementia, we sincerely encourage you to join our free Livewell support group, where our expert therapists can address all your questions and concerns.