10 Telltale Signs Your Loved One May be Developing Dementia

Some of the most com­mon signs to help you catch demen­tia early

Demen­tia refers to a group of dis­eases and symp­toms that are asso­ci­at­ed with a decline in mem­o­ry and cog­ni­tive func­tion severe enough to inter­fere with every­day life. It is most com­mon in those over the age of 65 and may cause symp­toms that hin­der the abil­i­ty to think, remem­ber and rea­son. Today, approx­i­mate­ly 47.5 mil­lion peo­ple are liv­ing with demen­tia worldwide.

There are sev­er­al types of demen­tia, includ­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease, vas­cu­lar and fron­totem­po­ral demen­tia. Each is slight­ly dif­fer­ent, how­ev­er, no mat­ter the diag­no­sis type, the dis­ease is expect­ed to progress at a sub­tle rate where symp­toms increas­ing­ly wors­en overtime.

Because demen­tia is a pro­gres­sive dis­ease, the sever­i­ty will vary. In its most mild stage, demen­tia will slow­ly begin to affect a per­son­’s func­tion­ing, while in its most severe stage, a per­son must depend com­plete­ly on oth­ers for basic, every­day activities.

Demen­tia is not a nor­mal part of aging, but is more com­mon as peo­ple age. While there is no cur­rent cure for demen­tia, there are treat­ment options avail­able to slow the pro­gres­sion and ease symp­toms if caught ear­ly. In order to seek treat­ment as soon as pos­si­ble when signs arise and give your loved one a chance to explain the changes they are expe­ri­enc­ing, keep an eye out for the fol­low­ing cog­ni­tive and psy­cho­log­i­cal symptoms.


In the ear­ly stages of demen­tia, con­fu­sion is com­mon. Signs of con­fu­sion may include:

  • For­get­ting faces
  • For­get­ting what comes next in the day
  • Dif­fi­cul­ty judg­ing the pas­sage of time
  • For­get­ting where they are
  • Not under­stand­ing events in the future or past
  • Strug­gling with dates
  • Trou­ble remem­ber­ing peo­ple they know

Dif­fi­cul­ty communicating

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion can be chal­leng­ing for those with demen­tia, includ­ing speak­ing, writ­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in con­ver­sa­tion. For instance, a per­son with demen­tia may for­get what they or oth­ers have said, expe­ri­ence a decline in prop­er spelling, punc­tu­a­tion and gram­mar, and devel­op hand­writ­ing that is dif­fi­cult to read.

Dif­fi­cul­ty per­form­ing every­day tasks

As the ill­ness con­tin­ues to progress, per­form­ing every­day tasks becomes more dif­fi­cult. This refers to tasks reg­u­lar­ly done at home or at work, such as mak­ing cof­fee, oper­at­ing a com­put­er or get­ting to a famil­iar location.

Dif­fi­cul­ty rea­son­ing or problem-solving

Rea­son­ing and prob­lem-solv­ing are func­tions that may be affect­ed by the onset of demen­tia. This includes dif­fi­cul­ty fol­low­ing a plan, such as direc­tions when dri­ving, and gen­er­al prob­lem-solv­ing, such as cal­cu­lat­ing the num­bers on a bill.

Dif­fi­cul­ty under­stand­ing visu­al information

Demen­tia can make it hard to read, judge dis­tances and notice the dif­fer­ence in col­ors. This can make dri­ving or rid­ing a bike dif­fi­cult and even dangerous.

Mem­o­ry loss

Trou­ble with mem­o­ry is one of the most com­mon signs of demen­tia. While being for­get­ful is often a nor­mal part of the aging process, sub­tle changes in mem­o­ry can be a mean­ing­ful indi­ca­tor of some­thing more seri­ous and should be not­ed and shared with your physician.

It is com­mon for some­one suf­fer­ing from demen­tia to:

  • Remem­ber sto­ries from the past, but not remem­ber what they’ve done in the present
  • Have dif­fi­cul­ty recall­ing infor­ma­tion they have recent­ly learned, such as dates, events or new information
  • Rely on oth­ers as mem­o­ry aids or to keep track of information

Mis­plac­ing things

In con­junc­tion with con­fu­sion and a decline in mem­o­ry, those with demen­tia may have a hard time remem­ber­ing where they leave every­day objects, such as car keys or impor­tant documents.

Mood changes

Those with demen­tia may expe­ri­ence mood swings, such as feel­ing depressed, anx­ious, fear­ful or irri­ta­ble, and per­son­al­i­ty changes, such as act­ing inap­pro­pri­ate­ly, being dis­in­hib­it­ed or chang­ing from being out­go­ing to very withdrawn.

Poor judge­ment or deci­sion making

Under­stand­ing what is fair and rea­son­able can be chal­leng­ing for those with demen­tia. This may include over­pay­ing for things, buy­ing things they do not need or pay­ing less atten­tion to hygiene and appearance.

Social with­draw­al

If your loved one is suf­fer­ing from demen­tia, they may become social­ly with­drawn from oth­ers. For instance, they may become unin­ter­est­ed in home or work life and stop par­tic­i­pat­ing in hob­bies that they use to enjoy. Demen­tia may also cause your loved one to act emo­tion­al­ly detached or listless.

If these symp­toms apply to you or your loved one, we rec­om­mend talk­ing to a physi­cian for sup­port and guid­ance. Catch­ing demen­tia ear­ly can allow your physi­cian to deter­mine the under­ly­ing cause, ease symp­toms and slow the pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease, improv­ing your over­all qual­i­ty of life.

Please vis­it our Neu­rol­o­gy page to learn more about our physi­cians, ser­vices and locations.

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