10 Early Warning Signs of Dementia

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Dementia is often seen as something that will only affect us later. However, while it’s true that the risk of developing Dementia increases with age, there are some warning signs to look out for even earlier on. 

It can be difficult to recognize these early symptoms, but doing so can help you get the care and support needed much sooner.  In this blog post, we look at ten early warning signs of Dementia and explain why it is important to seek medical advice if any are present.

Different Types of Dementia

According to National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is the number one cause of Dementia, but there are other types, such as:

  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Mixed Dementia, or a combination of types

Alzheimer’s Disease – the leading form of Dementia- brings memory loss, language difficulties, and impulsive behavior. Over time, the condition tends to worsen. Look for signs such as forgetfulness, indecisiveness, difficulty finishing tasks, personality changes, and communication struggles.

Vascular Dementia – a type of Dementia that arises from brain blood vessel damage or disruptions in blood and oxygen supply to the brain.

Frontotemporal Dementia – a rare yet strikingly impactful form of Dementia often affecting individuals under 60. This condition is intricately linked to abnormal levels or variations of the proteins tau and TDP-43. 

Mixed Dementia, or a combination of types – has been discovered through autopsy studies on older adults with the condition. Researchers identified that many individuals exhibited brain changes linked to various forms of Dementia.

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10 Early Warning Signs of Dementia

  1. Memory Loss – The number one warning sign of Dementia is memory loss that disrupts everyday life.

It’s common to forget things occasionally, but with Dementia, people often forget recently learned information and repeatedly ask for the same information, and this may include forgetting important dates or events or needing more help from memory aids or family members with tasks used to do independently

  1. Having Trouble Planning Or Solving Problems some individuals may notice changes in their ability to create and follow a plan or work with numbers. They might struggle with familiar recipes or keeping track of monthly bills.
  1. Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks – the third indicator that someone may be experiencing Dementia is struggling to finish tasks they usually do without problem, whether at home, work, or during their leisure time; this can include forgetting the rules of a beloved game, having trouble navigating to a familiar place, or struggling to handle work-related budgets.
  1. Confusion With Time or Place – Dementia can make time slip away for those who experience it. Dates, seasons, and the passage of time can become a blur. Sometimes, individuals may forget their whereabouts or how they ended up in a certain place.
  1. Difficulty Understanding Visual Images And Spatial Relationships – vision problems can be a telling indication of Dementia. Those affected might struggle with balance, reading, judging distance, and perceiving colors and contrasts. These challenges can certainly pose a concern when it comes to driving.
  1. Problems With Words In Speaking or Writing – individuals with Dementia might experience difficulties comprehending or engaging in conversations. They could pause abruptly during a discourse without knowing how to proceed or repeat themselves. They may encounter challenges with their vocabulary, struggle to find the appropriate word, or use incorrect terms to refer to things.
  1. Misplacing Things And Losing The Ability To Retrace Steps – People with Dementia often exhibit abnormal behavior, such as placing items in unusual locations and losing things. Unfortunately, they struggle to retrace their steps and locate their belongings. As the disease progresses, they may even start accusing others of theft.
  1. Decreased or Poor Judgment – This could be seen as changes in decision-making or judgment, like paying less attention to grooming or not keeping up with regular cleaning. They may also display poor money management skills, such as giving large amounts of money to telemarketers.
  1. Withdrawal from Work or Social Activities – people with Dementia often withdraw from hobbies, social activities, work projects, or sports they used to enjoy. They may struggle to keep up with their favorite team or remember how to engage in their hobbies. Additionally, they may avoid social activities due to the changes they have undergone.
  1. Changes In Mood and Personality – people with Dementia may experience changes in mood and personality, which can cause confusion, suspicion, depression, fear, or anxiety. They may also become easily upset at home, with friends, or in unfamiliar surroundings.
dementia written at the center of a scratch paper, and is inside a drawn pen of the same brown, cardboard-like paper

Other conditions can lead to dementia or dementia-like symptoms. These include:

  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, resulting from repeated traumatic brain injuries
  • HIV-associated Dementia is a rare condition occurring when HIV spreads to the brain.
  • Delirium, a sudden state of confusion and disorientation
  • Prolonged heavy alcohol consumption
  • Emotional problems, including stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Head injuries, such as concussions from falls or accidents

Explore these factors that can contribute to dementia or dementia-like symptoms and gain a deeper understanding of their impact.

Medical conditions like tumors, vitamin deficiencies, medication side effects, and thyroid, kidney, or liver issues can lead to significant memory problems that mimic Dementia. 

Fortunately, some causes of dementia-like symptoms can be stopped or even reversed with treatment. Take normal pressure hydrocephalus, for example, which often improves with treatment. 

The overlapping symptoms of different types of Dementia can make it challenging to receive an accurate diagnosis. However, it is crucial to obtain a proper diagnosis to receive the appropriate treatment.

Final Words

As we age, the chances of developing dementia increase, but it’s important to remember that Dementia is not a normal part of aging. Many live well into their 90s and beyond without any signs of Dementia. 

However, if Dementia does occur, early diagnosis and interventions can help slow its progression and greatly enhance the quality of life for those with Dementia and their caregivers.

While there is currently no cure for most types of Dementia, treatments are available to manage its symptoms. Ongoing research is being conducted to discover more effective treatments and, in the long run, a cure.

If you or a loved one are exhibiting any early warning signs of Dementia, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a healthcare professional. It’s important to remember that only a healthcare professional can officially diagnose Dementia. 

Help and support are readily available, so reach out if needed. Recognizing these warning signs is the vital first step in managing the condition and planning for the future.

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