Recognize Signs & Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia includes much more than memory loss. Brain changes can cause other problems like trouble with language, communication, focus, and reasoning. While memory loss is certainly something to look out for, there are other symptoms that could also mean a person might have dementia.

The national Alzheimer’s Association has published a list of the most common early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. As described on the Understanding Dementia page, there are many different kinds of dementia, each causing unique changes in the brain. While these symptoms are helpful in identifying dementia in someone we know, especially when several of them are present, further testing is needed to determine why these issues are happening.

10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias

  1. Memory that disrupts daily life
    1. This IS forgetting important events, constantly repeating or asking for information, or relying on other people to remember things they used to remember on their own
    2. This IS NOT forgetting someone’s name but remembering it later, or occasionally forgetting appointments. 
  2. Changes in planning or solving problems
    1. This IS becoming unable to follow a familiar recipe, keep track of monthly bills, count out correct change, or plan events that the person used to handle easily. 
    2. This IS NOT making normal absentminded mistakes or occasional errors.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or at work
    1. This IS having trouble completing projects around the house, managing a budget at work, playing a familiar game, or driving to a familiar location.
    2. This IS NOT needing help to use new technology or getting lost on the way to a new location. 
  4. Confusion with time or place
    1. This IS losing track of the dates and passage of time, dressing inappropriately for the season, showing up to an appointment in the middle of the night, or asking to go home when the person already is home.  
    2. This IS NOT forgetting the exact date or accidentally getting the time wrong for an appointment. 
  5. Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships
    1. This IS having difficulty reading and judging distance or contrast. This often causes problems with driving. 
    2. This IS NOT low vision caused by cataracts. 
  6. New problems with speaking or writing
    1. This IS becoming unable to follow and join a conversation, stopping in the middle of a sentence with no idea of how to continue, or calling objects by the wrong name. 
    2. This IS NOT sometimes having trouble finding the right word, or hearing issues related to hearing loss. 
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
    1. This IS putting things in very unusual places without being able to go back and find them, or not even remembering they put something away in the first place. This sometimes causes people to accuse others of stealing their belongings.
    2. This IS NOT misplacing things from time to time but being able to go back and figure out where they might be. 
  8. Decreased or poor judgement
    1. This IS making irrational decisions that the person would previously not have made, like giving large amounts of money to telemarketers, paying less attention to grooming or hygiene, or using language the person would previously have thought inappropriate. 
    2. This IS NOT changing your mind for rational and appropriate reasons or making a normal bad decision every once in a while. 
  9. Withdrawal from activities
    1. This IS not attending social activities, quitting favorite hobbies, turning down work projects, or not keeping up with a favorite sports team.
    2. This IS NOT feeling tired of work or social obligations, or making a decision to spend time in new or different ways.
  10. Changes in mood or personality
    1. This IS becoming increasingly confused, suspicious, or anxious. The person may be upset much more quickly or feel newly uncomfortable in previously familiar settings. 
    2. This IS NOT becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted or wanting to do things in a specific way. 

What to do if you see signs of dementia

If you notice one or more of these signs in yourself or someone you know, the best way to help is to FIRST have a conversation with that person (if it’s not yourself) about your concerns and SECOND schedule an appointment with a doctor or health care provider and clearly express your concerns about memory loss and dementia. View tips for talking to a loved one about dementia.

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