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What Are the Top Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia?

Written by Alissa Sauer
 about the author
5 minute readLast updated April 10, 2023

As dementia reaches epidemic proportions worldwide, it’s only natural to become concerned with our parents or senior loved ones becoming forgetful. However, dementia is more than just forgetfulness and can occur due a variety of health conditions. If you’re becoming increasingly worried about a loved one’s cognitive health, look for these early signs of dementia to understand if or when your family might need to seek out a medical professional’s guidance.

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In order to encourage early medical intervention, the Alzheimer’s Association has assembled these top early signs of dementia.

1. A lack of problem-solving skills

In the early stages of dementia, your loved one may be unable to manage a budget, forget to pay their bills, or have trouble following a familiar recipe. Things may take longer than they used to as processing problems and solving them will take more energy.

2. Confused speech

It can be difficult for people in the early stages of the disease to follow or join a conversation. They may have trouble recalling the names of familiar items and struggle with vocabulary.

3. Confusion

Someone with dementia will often lose track of space and time, forgetting the day or week. He or she may easily forget where they are and even how they got there.

4. Difficulty completing familiar tasks

Completing daily tasks can be difficult even in the early stages of the disease. This can manifest itself in getting lost while driving to a familiar location, forgetting the rules of a game, or having trouble remembering how to manage daily chores and housework.

5. Forgetfulness that interferes with daily life

A person in the early stages of dementia will often forget things that he or she has recently learned, or forget important dates and events. He or she may increasingly rely on memory aids or family and friends for appointment reminders. This is different from a typical age-related change where a person will sometimes forget a name but remember it later.

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Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

6. Misplacing items

A person with the disease may put items in inappropriate places and then have trouble retracing his or her steps to find the item. This may increase as dementia progresses and can lead the person to accuse others of theft.

7. Poor judgment

People with dementia are frequently targeted by scammers because of poor judgment. A person with the disease is more likely to expose private personal information or give money to a telemarketer. They may also have trouble keeping themselves clean and well-kept, forgetting to do laundry or take a shower.

8. Spatial and visual disorientation

The disease can also manifest itself as vision problems, and people may have trouble seeing certain colors or contrast. This can cause issues with driving.

9. Sudden changes in mood and personality

People in the early stages of dementia may also experience sudden shifts in mood and personality. They can become anxious, fearful, paranoid, and easily upset.

10. Withdrawal from social or work activities

Someone in the early stages of the disease may begin to isolate themselves from social or work gatherings because of other changes like confusion, disorientation and loss of speech. They may withdraw from a social club out of confusion or fear.
If you have noticed any of these symptoms of dementia in a parent or senior loved one, seek a healthcare professional’s guidance. Obtaining an early diagnosis is critical to maximizing treatment options, participating in clinical trials, and planning for the future.


Meet the Author
Alissa Sauer

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom (of which OurParents is a trademark) and the reader.  Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site.  Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.