The typical signs of dementia

Dementia often develops slowly and the early signs are not always obvious. Symptoms similar to dementia can be seen in other illnesses. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell apart dementia from the usual mild forgetfulness seen in normal ageing.

Alzheimer’s, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia are all neurodegenerative diseases, meaning that the symptoms get worse over time. This is usually the case with vascular dementia too. The speed of change varies between people and also between different diseases, but in most cases, dementia symptoms progress slowly over several years.

As dementia progresses:

  • People may find that their ability to remember, think and make decisions worsen.
  • Communication and language often become more difficult.
  • A person’s behaviour may change and some people can become sad or demoralised.
  • Anxieties or phobias are quite common.
  • Problems with time perception may cause problems with sleeping and restlessness at night.
  • Anger or agitation is common in the later stages of dementia.
  • It is common for people to be unsteady on their feet and fall more often.
  • Gradually people require more help with daily activities like dressing, toileting and eating.

10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

You may have been living with memory problems or other symptoms for some time. Your problems probably developed very gradually, so can be harder to recognise. Often, close friends and relatives see changes in us before we do.

If you’ve only recently become aware of changes, it might feel as though your symptoms aren’t ‘bad enough’ yet. But getting an early diagnosis of dementia can be important.

The information below has been created by Alzheimer’s Society who are available to talk to on 0333 150 3456

Warning SignDementiaNormal Aging
Memory loss that disrupts daily lifeForgetting recently learned informationForgetting important dates or eventsRepeatedly asking the same questionsRelying on memory aidesRelying on family members for things they used to handle themselvesSometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later
Challenges in planning or solving problemsChanges in ability to follow instructionsChanges in ability to work with numbersTrouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly billsDifficulty concentrating and taking much longer to do thingsOccasional errors with numbers
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisureHard to complete familiar daily tasksTrouble driving to familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering rules of favourite gameOccasionally needing help to use settings on microwave or recording TV show
Confusion with time or placeLosing track of dates, seasons, and the passage of timeTrouble understanding something if it is not happening immediatelyMay forget where they are or how they got thereGetting confused about the day or the week but figuring it out later
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationshipsAlzheimer’s disease can result in vision problems.There may be trouble in judging distance (e.g. on stairs), colour and contrast.Vision changes related to cataracts
New problems with words in speaking or writingTrouble following or joining a conversationMay stop in middle of conversation and not know how to continueMay repeat themselvesMay struggle with vocabulary, finding the right word or calling things by the wrong nameAt times having trouble finding the right word
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace stepsPutting things in unusual placesLose things and be unable to go back over steps to find them againMay accuse others of stealingMisplacing things from time to time (eg. glasses or TV remote control)
Decreased or poor judgementChanges in judgement or decision makingPoor judgement when dealing with moneyMay pay less attention to groomingMaking a bad decision once in a while
Withdrawn from work or social activitiesMay start to remove themselves from hobbies or social activitiesMay avoid social engagementsSometimes being weary of work, family and social obligations
Changes in mood and personalityMood and personalities can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious.May become easily upset at home, friends, work or places where they are out of their comfort zoneDeveloping specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

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