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Early Indicators: Is It Dementia? 8 Signs Something May Be Wrong

You may have noticed over the holiday season when you gathered with your family for the first time in a while that a loved one may be showing signs of dementia. Maybe they’re acting a little more forgetful or spacey than normal. This can be a worrying sign. That’s why it’s a great idea to do what you’re doing now, which is to look into the early signs that something may be wrong and figure out if these are truly early indicators of dementia or not.

Signs Something May Be Wrong: Early Indicators of Dementia

In this article, we will break down some of the early signs of dementia. This will help you determine if it’s time to talk to a doctor about the symptoms of dementia you or your loved one might be experiencing. Let’s dive in.

Whether you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the early warning signs of dementia. Here are some of the most common, according to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada:

Early Dementia Sign 1: Intrusive Memory Loss

The first and most obvious sign is a change in memory. If you or your loved ones are forgetting things more frequently in a way that affects your day-to-day life, or struggling to retain information you’ve recently obtained, it may be a sign of early dementia.

It’s normal to experience forgetfulness, meaning forgetting a doctor's appointment, temporarily struggling to recall a friend's name, or being unable to think of a word that’s on the tip of your tongue. When this happens, however, most of us can come up with that thought a short while later. A person who is showing signs of dementia, however, will be less likely to think of it later.

Early Dementia Sign 2: Struggles with Abstract Thinking

It’s normal to struggle with math, data, taxes, etc. Struggling to get the correct answer to an equation is not a sign of dementia. It’s not normal, however, to forget what the number digits and other common symbols are or to lose track of what they mean.

Early Dementia Sign 3: Misplacing Things

It’s normal to temporarily misplace regularly used items or forget if you have turned off the stove when you leave.

It’s not normal, however, to run into frequent issues of putting things in places they don’t belong. For example, putting your phone in the freezer, putting your wedding ring in a rice container, or putting your keys under the sink.

Early Dementia Sign 4: Difficulty with Normal Tasks

It’s normal when you’re busy to leave a side dish in the oven and forget to serve it, or to forget that you re-microwaved your coffee. This becomes concerning, however, if you were your loved one are forgetting fundamental routine tasks like how to make a dish you’ve made a thousand times or how to make coffee.

Early Dementia Sign 5: Mood Swings

It’s also normal to experience mood swings in your day-to-day life. However, a person with dementia may experience these changes more rapidly or dramatically. If they start acting in a way that’s abnormal to them (for example, withdrawing from friends and family or lashing out erratically), it may be a sign of dementia.

Early Dementia Sign 6: Impaired Judgment

It is normal to make poor choices on things like avoiding the dentist when you have a toothache. It is not normal, however, to make regularly inappropriate judgment calls, like wearing a tank top on a snowy day, or completely ignoring an obvious medical problem.

Early Dementia Sign 7: Disorientation

We have all walked into a bedroom and had our minds go blank once we walked through the door, completely unable to recall why we had walked that way. That is normal disorientation. What’s not normal is walking on your street and forgetting which house is yours, or turning the wrong way on a route that you take regularly.

Early Dementia Sign 8: Language Substitutions

We’ve all experienced a time when we have forgotten a word while speaking. But someone with dementia may substitute nonsensical words in place of a forgotten word to try to cover up the lack of memory. They may make up words or use them completely incorrectly.

Closing Thoughts

If you notice any of the signs in yourself for a loved one, it’s important to bring it up with a doctor. There are also other symptoms of dementia not mentioned here, so the best course of action if you’re worried is to get a professional opinion.

Multiple assessments can be done to help identify and diagnose dementia. While it’s true that early access to treatment cannot cure the disease, it can help to slow the symptoms and keep your loved one safer.

As a family caregiver in California, we invite you to check out our library of free resources. The California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County is here to provide assistance and guidance.

Together, we can navigate the healthcare landscape and help you provide the best possible care for your loved one(s) over time.

Further Reading: Understanding Dementia-Related Wandering

Understanding dementia-related wandering is essential for helping those living with a cognitive impairment to stay safe and get the best care. In this article, we’ll help you understand the causes, symptoms, behavior management tips, treatment options, and community care options to help you better care for a loved one showing signs of dementia-related wandering. Click here to read about it.


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