Early Signs of Dementia: What You Need to Know

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What are the early signs of dementia?

You can watch your loved one or yourself for the following general early warning signs of dementia, as explained by Maureen Bradley, a senior new hire support specialist at A Place for Mom and a DHS student in Human Services at Walden University:

  • Memory loss
  • Becoming lost or turned around
  • Difficulty with planning and organization skills
  • Having trouble finding the right word
  • Anxiety or depression

It’s important to note that early signs of dementia can vary widely. The above list may not apply to all people with dementia. You know your loved one or yourself the best and may notice something is off beyond what is listed.

“Detecting early warning signs are all about noticing what is different or changed for that person,” Bradley said. “Someone who has misplaced their keys on occasion their whole life, for example, that wouldn’t count as an early warning sign. By comparison, someone who has never misplaced their keys and then suddenly starts doing it on a regular basis might be experiencing early warning signs.”

Do dementia signs in men and women differ?

While it is tempting to categorize things by gender or biological sex, it’s more appropriate to consider signs of dementia on an individual basis.

“Warning signs are different between human and human as we all have different strengths, cognitive reserve, [and] resilience skills,” said Michelle Niedens, a licensed specialist clinical social worker and the director of the Cognitive Care Network at the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.


What are early signs of dementia by type?

Different types of dementia may present differently. Even people with the same form of dementia may not experience all of the same symptoms. Review the beginning signs of dementia across some common forms:

Types of dementia Possible early warning signs
Alzheimer’s disease  

• Difficulty with memory

• Inability to perform activities of daily living independently

• Mobility issues

• Personality changes[01]


Frontotemporal dementia  

• Behavioral changes

• Cognitive changes

• Communication challenges

• Movement issues[02]


Lewy body dementia, including Parkinson’s disease  

• Cognitive issues

• Movement challenges

Sleep pattern changes

• Significant mood changes, including depression, anxiety, or paranoia[03]


Vascular dementia  

• Becoming lost

• Changes in behavior

• Communication issues

• Difficulty learning

• Forgetting memories

• Hallucinations or delusions

• Inability to perceive danger or make reasonable decisions

• Sleep pattern changes[04]


Early onset dementia, also called young-onset dementia  

• The signs and symptoms of early onset dementia are similar to the signs of dementia in elderly people.

• The signs occur at a younger age than is typical.[05]


How can I tell the difference between signs of dementia and signs of aging?

“It can be difficult as with mild cognitive impairment or early dementias, they may look similar,” Niedens said. “If it is a concern and requires accommodations, such as taking additional notes, parking in the same place, asking for assistance more often, something is going on and should be checked out.”

There is also the possibility of a different condition mimicking dementia symptoms, such as depression or a vitamin deficiency, Neidens explained.

What to do if you have signs of dementia

When it comes to concerns about your overall wellness, you know yourself better than anyone else.

“If you feel something is off, listen to your gut and talk with a provider,” Niedens said.


What to do if your loved one has signs of dementia

If you are noticing that your loved one has early signs of dementia, you may be wondering if or how to approach them.

“The key is openness. One has to be brave enough to begin the conversation,” Niedens said. “It should not be an accusation or assumption – it should be an expression of concern noting there are many reversible reasons for cognitive changes.  [It is] important to take these symptoms seriously and tackle whatever it is at the earliest juncture.”

Every family and every relationship is different. Always use your best judgement when handling sensitive matters with a loved one.

Niedens encourages people to view “WHY,” a documentary film presented by the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, to learn more about early diagnosis of dementia.

Should a person with signs of dementia have baseline testing?

“One of the best things to do when those early signs appear is to get some baseline screening done as soon as possible.  At a minimum, this should be done by the person’s primary care physician, but ideally it is a good idea to source a neurologist and begin to develop a relationship with them before there is an emergency,” Bradley said. “This allows the patient and doctor to get to know one another and the doctor to better see and understand changes over time.”

As always, you or your loved one should choose your medical providers with care. Medical recommendations and testing protocols may vary between providers based your personal health history, your symptoms, and other factors.

What happens after a dementia diagnosis?

If you or your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you may feel overwhelmed or feel a flood of challenging emotions. For adult children, it can be especially challenging to accept that a parent has been diagnosed with dementia. Take time to find support in this difficult time.

You are not alone. While a dementia diagnosis may feel staggering, the Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom offer free consultations to help you or your family find in-home care or senior living options that may fit you or your loved one’s unique memory care needs when the time comes.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only.

This article originally appeared on APlaceForMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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