Dementia is a term used to describe a variety of symptoms affecting cognitive functioning – thought, memory, and reason. For a person with dementia – it tends to get worse over time.
Dementia occurs when nerve cells in a person’s brain stop working. As people age, there is a natural deterioration within the brain but it occurs more quickly for those diagnosed with dementia. There are many types of dementia. According to the National Institute of Aging, the most common is Alzheimer’s disease. However, other types include Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, vascular disorders, and mixed dementia (or a combination of types.)
There are 10 typical early signs of dementia. For a person to receive a diagnosis of dementia, they would usually exhibit two or more of these symptoms, and the symptoms would be severe enough to interfere with their daily life.
1. Memory Loss
Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia. A person with dementia may find it difficult to recall information they have recently learned – dates, events, etc. They may find they rely on friends and family or other memory aids to keep track of things. Most people occasionally forget things as they age, and can usually recall them later if their memory loss is age-related and not due to dementia.
2. Difficulty planning or solving problems
Any 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 for those with dementia. For example, adding up numbers to pay bills can sometimes be a daunting task for those individuals suffering symptoms from dementia.
3. Difficulty doing familiar tasks
A person with dementia may experience difficulty with completing 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 at work.
4. Being confused about time and 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 difficult 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 people 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 difficult.
6. Problems speaking or writing
A person with dementia may experience difficulty when engaging in conversation. They may forget what they are saying or what someone else has said. People may also find their spelling, punctuation, and grammar getting worse. Some people’s handwriting becomes more difficult to read.
7. Misplacing things
Dementia may also cause a person to not remember where they have left an object – everyday items such as a remote control, documents, cash or their keys. Misplacing possessions can be frustrating and may mean they accuse other people of stealing.
8. Poor judgment and 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. Someone people with dementia also pay less attention to keeping themselves clean and presentable.
9. Withdrawal from socializing
Dementia can also cause a person to become uninterested in socializing with people, whether in their home or work life. 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
People with dementia may experience mood swings or changes in personalities. For example, they may become irritable, depressed, fearful, or anxious. They may also become more disinhibited or act inappropriately.
Should I see a doctor?
A person who experiences any of these symptoms or notices them in a loved one should speak with 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, a doctor can help slow the progression of the disease and help ease the symptoms to improve the person’s quality of life.