Ten Dementia Warning Signs You Need To Know

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Updated: February 10, 2018

dementia in seniors

Dementia isn’t something that is easily tested for diagnosis, so be on the lookout for signs.

Contrary to common thought, dementia is not a disease in and of itself.  Rather, dementia is an umbrella term which encompasses any type of decline in mental ability that is severe enough to impact a person’s ability to perform their everyday activities.  The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all cases.  The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia, which is the result of a stroke.  Other conditions that can cause dementia symptoms include concussions, thyroid disease, and vitamin deficiencies. Emotional trauma such as the death of a spouse may even trigger an early onset of dementia.

Unfortunately, there is no specific medical test to diagnose for dementia but you can know the early signs of dementia and educate yourself. Doctors will arrive at a dementia diagnoses based on physical examination, detailed medical history, blood work, and the symptoms being experienced.  Unfortunately, even if a doctor can be certain a patient is suffering from dementia, it may not always be possible to specify the type.  If you are concerned that someone you love may be suffering from dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association has created a list of the 10 most common warning signs of dementia. Know the early symptoms so you can start dementia treatment or use prevention tips as soon as possible.

Ten Dementia Warning Signs

1. Memory Loss

The most common sign of the onset of dementia is memory loss, especially short-term memory such as forgetting information learned recently. This can also manifest itself through forgetting significant dates or events, asking for the same information repeatedly, and increasingly needing to write down things they could easily remember before. If your aging loved one starts forgetting the little things, think about the big picture and have them tested as soon as possible.

2. Difficulty Following a Plan

Another sign is a major change in the ability to follow a plan, such as paying monthly bills or following a recipe. You may notice your loved one having difficulty concentrating and/or taking much longer to accomplish tasks. Or perhaps they have poor judgement in making decisions that were easy to make before.

3. Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks

In fact, people developing dementia have a difficult time completing once familiar tasks in general. They may forget how to drive to a common location, how to play a favorite game, or how to complete a common task at work or even how to tie their shoe!

4. Confusion About Time & Place

Time and place may become confusing to someone with dementia. They can lose track of dates, seasons of the year, and the passage of time in general.  They may forget where they are or how they arrived there. Be sure to ask questions frequently such as “who is the current president?” or “what year are we in?”

5. Trouble Understanding Visual Images & Spatial Relationships

Another sign of dementia is trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. They can have trouble judging the distance between things, and may start to have trouble with colors and contrast. This could pose as a health risk as they may become susceptible to slips and falls in their own home.

6. Difficulty Speaking or Writing

People developing dementia may start to have problems with speaking or writing. They may have trouble following conversations, forget the meaning of words they previously knew, and call things by the wrong name. Encourage your loved one to write often, take notes, create shopping lists and do crossword puzzles to keep their skills sharp.

7. Misplacing Items

Misplacing things can be a sign of dementia. Your loved one may lose something, be unable to remember where they placed it, and perhaps be confused enough to accuse someone of stealing the lost item.

8. Poor Judgement About Money & Personal Hygiene

Decreased judgement is another sign of dementia. You may see a loved one make poor decisions with their money, or cease paying attention to their grooming. A sudden decline in personal hygiene is often one of the first signs of dementia and should be taken seriously.

9. Withdrawal From Hobbies & Social Activities

You may notice someone beginning to suffer from dementia withdraw from their usual hobbies and social activities. They may be trying to hide the changes happening to them from others. This one is tricky as it can be confused with elder isolation or depression. Be sure to check-in regularly with friends and neighbors to see if there is a drastic change in their social pattern.

10. Changes in Mood & Personality

Finally, dementia can cause changes in mood and personality. You may find your loved one is easily upset, confused, anxious, suspicious, depressed, or fearful in a way they have never been before.

Signs of dementia can be easily confused with common signs of aging or other conditions such as depression. If you are concerned about a loved one showing any of these symptoms, offer to go with them to the doctor as soon as possible. Although there is no cure for dementia, there are ways to fight off dementia or to prolong its onset. Brain games for seniors, making changes in diet and exercise and decrease stress in addition to speaking to your doctor about a plan can help fight off signs of dementia.