Signs of Dementia

Signs of Dementia

It can be difficult to determine if memory loss and other dementia symptoms are caused by dementia or just a normal part of aging. Below, we explain the eight most common signs of dementia. While noticing the signs of dementia can be helpful, remember that only a doctor can diagnose this condition. If you suspect you or a loved one may be experiencing early symptoms of the condition, speak to a medical professional.

Memory Lapses

Forgetting things once in a while is completely normal. Even younger people forget where they put their keys or miss dental appointments because they forgot about them. Forgetfulness becomes a cause for concern when you start forgetting the names of loved ones, when you find yourself repeating the same stories all the time, and when your memory lapses become frequent.

Memory loss is often one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, so it’s important to pay attention if older loved ones start to be more forgetful than usual. Many people with early Alzheimer’s remember things that happened decades ago, but they may have trouble remembering what they ate for breakfast or the name of a person they met a few days ago.

Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks

Dementia can make it difficult to perform familiar tasks that you’ve done hundreds or even thousands of times. One example is cooking a meal from scratch. Even if you previously knew the recipe by heart, you may find it difficult to remember what ingredients you need or what steps to follow when preparing the meal. A loved one with dementia may abandon hobbies they’ve always enjoyed or fail to complete projects they were once excited to begin.

Language Difficulty

The damage to the brain that occurs in some types of dementia can interfere with your language skills, including your ability to speak clearly. You may have trouble choosing words or forget the names of common items in your home. An older loved one with dementia may get frustrated when you’re talking to them because they can’t remember the words they wanted to use.


As dementia progresses, you may not be as oriented to people, place, and time as you used to be. You may find yourself losing track of time, wondering how you got somewhere or getting lost in neighborhoods or buildings that should be familiar to you. If you have an older loved one with dementia, you may notice that they become disoriented when visiting relatives, attending social events, and going to medical appointments.

Impaired Abstract Thinking

Abstract thinking relates to your ability to understand what things mean. If you have dementia, you may have trouble with activities that require abstract thinking, such as balancing your checkbook, engaging in complex discussions, or following instructions for a task. Abstract thinking is especially difficult when you’re trying to follow a sequence or understand cause-and-effect relationships.

Diminished Judgment

Since you became an adult, you’ve been using your judgment on a daily basis. Decisions about what to eat, when to go to the doctor and how to interact with others eventually become second nature. If you have dementia, however, you may not be able to make good decisions like you always have. Dementia makes it difficult to plan things in advance, manage your finances responsibly and make good choices related to your safety.

Behavior or Mood Changes

Many medical conditions cause changes in mood and behavior, but dementia is one of the most common. As dementia progresses, you may develop symptoms of depression, experience more anxiety than usual or be afraid of things that never bothered you before. Older family members with dementia may also withdraw from their loved ones due to embarrassment over their memory loss and difficulty communicating. You may even notice that your loved one is more or less inhibited than they used to be.

Is It Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

Because Alzheimer’s and dementia are often used interchangeably, it can be difficult to determine which form of dementia you have. Alzheimer’s is certainly the most common, accounting for 60% to 70% of all dementia cases, but it’s possible your symptoms are caused by FTD, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, or some other type of dementia. If it’s Alzheimer’s, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty remembering where you were going or how to get there
  • Changes in your writing or speaking abilities
  • Trouble performing calculations
  • Difficulty performing multi-step tasks, such as preparing a meal
  • Inability to remember the names of your friends and family members
  • Increased anxiety
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Changes in your sleep patterns
  • Personality changes
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed

Scientists still have much to learn about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. As a result, there’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and there’s no way to stop the disease from progressing. Despite the fact that no cure exists, you shouldn’t lose hope. There are treatments available to help control your symptoms and maintain the highest quality of life possible.

In the United States, the Food & Drug Administration has approved cholinesterase inhibitors for people with Alzheimer’s disease. These medications slow down the metabolism of a chemical called acetylcholine, improving communication between nerve cells and easing some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The FDA has also approved a drug called memantine to slow down the decline in cognitive function caused by Alzheimer’s. Anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, and antipsychotics may also be used to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms. Not all treatments work for all people, however; it’s important to work with your loved one’s doctor to determine which medications are making a difference and which ones are not.

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