Spotting Early Signs of Dementia

Ways to spot early dementia signs

What is Dementia?

Dementia refers to a number of symptoms that affect thinking, memory and social abilities so much that it negatively impacts your daily life. Several types of diseases can cause dementia.

Although people with dementia are known to have memory loss, memory loss can still be caused by something else. Having memory loss does not automatically mean that you have dementia.

In older adults, the most common cause of progressive dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. There are many other causes of dementia and depending on the cause, some symptoms of dementia can be reversed.

Causes of Dementia

Dementia is caused by the loss or damage of nerve cells connected in the brain. Dementia affects people differently depending on the part of brain that’s affected.

The most common causes include:

  • Brain injuries caused by car accidents, falls, etc.
  • Degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Fluid buildup in the brain
  • Infections of the central nervous system such as HIV and meningitis
  • Vascular disorders that interfere with the blood circulation in your brain
  • Long-term drug or alcohol use

How to Spot Early Signs of Dementia

If your loved one is having trouble with their memory, don’t automatically assume that it’s dementia. For them to be diagnosed with dementia they should display at least two types of impairment that drastically interfere with their daily life.

Besides memory loss, a person with dementia may also experience problems with communication, reasoning, language and focus.

You Know Your Loved One Best

Aging is a prominent risk factor for dementia and while not all memory loss is caused by dementia the likelihood becomes greater as we age. As a caregiver or family member you know your senior loved one well and are often best equipped to spot early signs of dementia. Caring for someone with dementia, even in the early stages, can be both emotionally draining and physically challenging. When care needs increase families often start evaluating additional options for long term care including senior living. Medical Alert has teamed up with A Place for Mom who is the leading senior living referral service in the United States. A Place for Mom’s expert advisors help caregivers and their families find the right senior living options for their aging loved ones through personalized referrals, tour scheduling and move-in support. Their services come at no cost to families as A Place for Mom is paid for by its network of 17,000+ participating communities and home care providers.

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    Common Symptoms of Dementia

    Short-term memory loss

    This is one of the earliest symptoms of dementia. You will notice subtle changes in the short-term memory. For example, one may clearly remember events that happened years ago but not what they had for dinner, where they left an item or why they went to a certain room.


    People in early stages of dementia become confused quite often. When their thinking, memory or judgement fails, they become confused. They can’t find the right words, interact with people like they used to or even remember faces.

    For example, they may forget simple things like where they placed their house keys, have trouble remembering someone they have met recently or forget what comes next during the day.

    Lack of interest

    If your loved one has dementia, they could suddenly lose interest in their hobbies or other activities, refuse to go out or do anything fun. They appear to be out of it emotionally and may even lose interest in spending time with family and friends.

    Mood change

    Mood changes are very common with dementia but it’s easier to recognize them in someone else than yourself. A good example here is depression.

    A shift in personality may also accompany mood changes. One typical example is a change from being very outgoing to shy.

    Inability to follow a storyline

    This is a common early sign of dementia. Just like finding the right words to communicate becomes challenging, so does remembering the meaning of words or following a conversation with people or TV shows.

    Trouble finding the right words

    A person with dementia might find it difficult to find the right words to communicate their thoughts. Having a conversation with this person would be difficult, and it would take quite some time to come to a conclusion.


    Being repetitive is a common sign of dementia because of the general change in behavior and memory loss. The person may repeat normal daily activities like shaving or may develop an obsession for collecting items. They could also repeat the same questions or statements in a conversation after they have been discussed.

    Unable to complete normal tasks

    The inability to finish normal daily activities can be an early sign of dementia. Usually, it begins with difficulty in doing more complex tasks. In addition, one may find it hard to learn new things.

    A deteriorating sense of direction

    One’s sense of direction can begin to fail. This means that they would not be able to recognize landmarks they once knew or forget normal directions they used before. It also becomes more challenging to follow step-by-step instructions or a series of directions.

    When you should go to a doctor

    As soon as you notice memory problems or other signs of dementia in your loved, go see a doctor. Some medical problems that are treatable can cause symptoms of dementia and it’s therefore vital to establish the underlying cause.

    Getting Some Peace of Mind

    If you have a loved one who is showing early signs of dementia and you are concerned about them being home alone, a medical alert system could help. If they become distressed or confused with just a push of a button, they can be connected to you and to professional help. If you are worried about them wandering out of their homes and getting lost, some medical alert systems have GPS locations enabled so you will be able to locate your loved ones. A small device can provide your loved one with protection and you with peace of mind.