Approximately 50 million people live with dementia worldwide — and 10 million new cases arise each year. Dementia causes mental deterioration beyond what’s expected as a person ages. It’s not a single disease, but a slew of conditions that, together, create a loss of cognitive functioning.
As such, it can be tough to detect that a loved one is affected by dementia.
Perhaps you’re worried about a family member or friend. If you fear they’ve shown signs of dementia onset, read on to find out the earliest signs for which you should look.
1. Memory Loss
Forgetfulness is a common side effect of aging. But one of the early signs of dementia is memory loss that’s much more common than that of someone who’s simply getting older.
For example, someone with dementia might rely on a family member to remember their appointments and other essential information. They’ll quickly forget recently learned dates and facts, too.
2. Difficulty With Common Tasks
Perhaps your loved one used to wake up and make a cup of tea every morning. Now, though, they can’t remember how to brew their beverage.
Failure to perform everyday tasks can signal the onset of dementia, too. Other examples include forgetting how to operate a TV or computer or getting lost on the way to a location they already know.
This sign doesn’t just apply to domestic or personal tasks, either. Your loved one might start to falter at work, forgetting the basics of how to do their job.
3. Confusion Regarding Place or Time
Perhaps your loved one occasionally forgets where they are.
Or, they might lose track of time — or get confused as to how much time has passed on any particular day. Sometimes, they could struggle to grasp time differences in events in the past or the future.
This time-related confusion is yet another one of the early symptoms of dementia.
4. Deteriorating Conversational or Written Skills
Your once-chatty relative may have gone quiet recently. They may seem to have forgotten how to check into and engage during a conversation. Or, they can’t remember what was just said, thus preventing them from responding in a standard, conversational cadence.
Sometimes, this early sign of dementia can carry into their written skills, too. Your loved one may have indecipherable handwriting all of a sudden. Or, they no longer know how to spell or punctuate what they do scribble down.
5. Inability to Follow Directions
We touched on the fact that a person with dementia symptoms will forget how to drive to known locations. They might also fail to follow directions to get them there.
Another one of the common dementia symptoms is an inability to follow instructions. It not only applies to directions on the road but recipes in the kitchen or any other step-based plan.
6. Problems Deciphering Visual Information
Your loved one drives where they need to go, and they’ve done so for years. Now, though, they’re having trouble on the road — they can’t see the stoplights changing colors anymore.
When a person struggles to process visual information, it can be a sign of the onset of dementia. They may not be able to see colors or judge distances anymore.
And, if they get around town on a bike or in a car, this side-effect can be a dangerous one. That’s why so many people will consider these senior housing options for someone with dementia, as the facility will keep them safe and secure.
7. Lack of Wise Decision-Making Skills
As dementia sets in, some people lose their ability to make once-easy judgment calls. They may start spending too much on frivolous items or scooping up a wealth of products they don’t need.
Or, they might stop making easy decisions to keep themselves clean and healthy. For example, some with dementia may fail to perform their regular hygiene routine.
8. Losing Their Personal Effects
We all misplace our keys from time to time. But someone with the early symptoms of dementia will do so often. And they’ll lose the items they’d usually have with them at all times — cash, cell phones, keys, wallets and more.
This pattern will become frustrating for the person who experiences it. They may grow angry and accuse others of hiding or stealing their things.
It can be hard for someone with dementia to process all that’s happening to them. As they struggle to converse or remember things, they may begin to withdraw from their everyday life.
Most will step away from social situations and quit their hobbies. They will avoid conversations and ignore people who talk to them.
For seniors, this symptom can be particularly detrimental, since socializing is so important to their age group. Notably, a robust social life keeps the elderly happy — withdrawing dementia patients won’t feel the same joy.
10. Ever-Changing Moods
A person experiencing the early signs of dementia might go through a rollercoaster of emotions. They’ll flip from being frustrated to anxious to scared to annoyed. Or, they may lose their inhibitions and act out of character in a public setting.
What Should I Do If My Loved One is Having a Dementia Onset?
In reading this list, you may have matched a handful of these symptoms with what your friend or a family member has experienced.
Your best bet is to see a doctor. They don’t yet have a cure for dementia, but they can provide medications and suggest therapeutic treatments to slow the onset of the condition. Their suggestions will keep your loved one feeling as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
You can continue to support a person with a dementia onset by better understanding the condition. You’re on the right path, though. And, with your support, they can continue to lead a happy, healthy life.