Understanding the early symptoms and warning signs of dementia

Dementia Symptoms

Early indicators of dementia

The early signs of dementia are often subtle and vague, and can be difficult to notice, particularly for people who live on their own. Because dementia has more than 100 different forms, the symptoms will vary depending on the type, the progression, and can even vary from person to person.

Some of the early indicators include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as asking for the same information on a consistent basis, or increasingly relying on memory aids like reminder notes
  • Becoming slower to grasp new ideas, or losing the thread of what is being said
  • Taking longer to do routine jobs
  • Experiencing difficulty adapting to change and an unwillingness to try new things
  • Becoming unusually irritable or easily upset
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities
  • Having difficulty finding the right words
  • Showing poor judgment and making poor decisions
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Changes in mood or personality

If you are worried that you or someone you know has dementia, keep a diary of the incidences that have been occurring and take them with you to the doctor, along with a medical history and list of medications.

Memory Lapses

As we age we experience a slowing of our mental responses, including the occasional memory lapse.

It’s normal to forget a word, miss paying a bill, or forget which day of the week it is.

Memory loss becomes a concern when it starts to affect your daily life, such as being unable to find the right words to form a sentence, the sudden inability to plan or budget, or losing track of the date and season and not being able to remember it later.

Forgetting things isn't always a sign of dementia; it can be a symptom of a range of conditions and should be investigated further by a doctor if it happens regularly, is getting worse, or is concerning you.

Other Causes of Memory Loss

If you have been experiencing memory loss, you should speak to your doctor as there are many conditions that can cause difficulties with concentration and memory.

These include:

  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Depression
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Head injuries
  • Tiredness
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Seizures
  • Long term over use of alcohol
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Infections
  • Medications

Depression is one of the most common causes of short term memory loss, and it can severely impair the thought process. If you are concerned you are experiencing depression contact your doctor.

Mild cognitive impairment
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that affects a person’s memory, language, or another mental function. People with MCI tend to retain problem solving and thinking skills but experience significant short-term memory loss.

The person may experience trouble remembering the names of people they meet or following the flow of a conversation. There also may be an increased tendency to misplace things.

While there may be more reliance on a calendar, notes, and lists, the person can still manage their daily activities. Because the problems do not interfere with daily activities, the person does not meet the criteria for being diagnosed with dementia.

Research has shown that individuals with MCI have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, especially when their main problem is memory. Not everyone diagnosed with MCI goes on to develop Alzheimer's disease.

Currently, there is no specific treatment for MCI. Studies are in progress to investigate treatments used for Alzheimer's disease, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and vitamin E, are able to prevent cognitive deterioration in people with MCI.

Seeking Medical Advice

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of memory loss it’s important to seek medical advice. Your doctor will assess your medical history and symptoms to rule out conditions that can cause similar symptoms but that are easily treatable.

Next Steps

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