Dementia isn’t just a single disease. In fact, it’s much more complicated than that, as it describes a whole collection of symptoms. These symptoms might affect someone’s memory, but also their ability to think, process information, and communicate with other people.
As the World Health Organization has stated, more than 55 million people all over the world suffer from dementia, and over 10 million new cases are now diagnosed every year. Even if Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, there are other causes too.
Even if dementia symptoms might vary due to underlying causes, there are still some key symptoms you need to watch out for.
11 Early-signs of Dementia
Subtle short-term memory changes
Having trouble with your memory can be one of the earliest symptoms of dementia. These changes are often so subtle, that they might get overlooked. But someone who suffers from dementia usually is able to remember various events that took place a couple of years before, but not really what they had for breakfast.
In this case, a person with dementia might also display other changes in their short-term memory, like forgetting where they put certain items, struggling to remember why they entered in a room and forgetting what they were supposed to do on any other day.
Difficulty finding the proper words
The second early symptom of cognitive decline is experiencing difficulty communicating inner thoughts. Someone who has dementia might experience a hard time trying to explain something, or finding the right words to express themselves.
Also, they might stop in the middle of a sentence and not know how to go on. Even more, having a serious conversation with someone who suffers from dementia can be challenging at some point, and in fact, it might take more than usual for them to express their thoughts or feelings. If you’re interacting with someone who suffers from this condition, the best thing you can do is have a lot of patience.
Sudden changes in their mood are also very common in patients with dementia. If you suspect you might have this condition, then it’s definitely not easy to see this in yourself, but you might notice it easier in someone else.
Depression, for example, is common in the early stages of dementia. Someone who suffers from dementia might seem fearful or even way more anxious than they were before. Everything could upset them easily, especially if their daily routine is changed or if they find themselves in unfamiliar situations.
Besides mood changes, you might also notice that there’s a shift in their personality. One typical type of personality change caused by dementia is a shift from being shy or even quiet to being extremely outgoing.
Apathy, also known as listlessness, is a very common sign of early cognitive decline. Someone who suffers from dementia might lose interest in the usual hobbies or activities, that they used to do before. They might not even want to go out or enjoy themselves anymore. Plus, they might lose all interest in spending time with their friends and family, and they might occur to be emotionally flat.
Difficulty completing tasks
You might also notice a very subtle shift in their capacity of completing common tasks. If so, then this might be another sign of cognitive decline. This usually starts with an inability to perform more complex tasks, an inability that certainly wasn’t there before.
It can manifest in many particular activities, such as balancing a checkbook, keeping track of the bills, following a recipe, or even playing a game that has many rules. Besides the struggle to complete familiar tasks, someone with dementia might also struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.
Another symptom that occurs in the early stages of dementia is feeling more confused than before. People who start to show signs of dementia have trouble remembering faces and individuals, knowing what day or month it is, or even figuring out where they are.
Confusion might happen in various cases and for many reasons and might apply to different contexts. A good example is when they misplace their car keys, forget what activities are to follow that day, or have difficulty remembering someone they have met only recently.
Difficulty following storylines
A classic sign of dementia is the inability to follow storylines anymore. People who suffer from dementia oftentimes forget the meaning of words they hear, but they also struggle to follow along with normal conversations or TV programs.
A failing sense of direction
Someone who presents early signs of dementia will suffer from a worsened sense of direction and spatial orientation. They might experience difficulty recognizing those landmarks that were once so familiar to them, but also forget how to get to places they knew all too well, and they used to have no problem finding them before.
Naturally, when all of this happens, then it instantly becomes way more difficult to follow any given directions or even step-by-step instructions.
Repetition is oftentimes met when it comes to people who suffer from dementia, as they suffer from serious memory loss and general behavioral changes. The person in cause might repeat the daily tasks they have already done, like shaving or bathing, or they might even obsessively start collecting items. They can also repeat the same question over and over again in a conversation, or tell you the same story more than once.
Struggling to adapt to change
If someone has entered the early stages of dementia, the experience itself brings a lot of fear. If they’re suddenly unable to recognize the people they once knew or follow what others are saying, this is no less than a very traumatizing experience.
They can’t remember why they went to that particular store, and they get lost on their way home. And because of all this, they might wish to have that routine they know so well, and be afraid to live new experiences. When it comes to difficulty adapting to change, we can discuss it as one of the earliest signs of dementia.
Another important consequence of dementia is the loss of the ability to make the right decisions. For instance, someone who suffers from dementia might not be able to see a dangerous situation when it happens.
They might try to walk across a busy street without checking to see if it’s safe to do so, or even head outside in summer clothing when it’s freezing outside. Another important hallmark of poor judgment in cases of dementia is the complete inability to judge financially anymore.
Someone who used to be very careful with money might start giving them away as if they wouldn’t matter, and even to people or causes, they don’t even know.
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