50 million people around the world have dementia, which is a syndrome that affects memory and cognition. You’re probably most familiar with Alzheimer’s Disease, which is a particular type of dementia.
Memory loss and difficulty is a natural part of getting older. So how can you tell if your loved one (or you yourself) is going through normal memory loss, or if it’s something more serious, like dementia?
When it comes to memory loss disorders like dementia, it’s important to catch it as soon as possible so you or your loved one can get immediate treatment to maintain memory and cognitive health for as long as possible.
So in this post, we’re going to go over how to tell if someone has dementia by looking for 8 early signs of the disorder.
1. Trouble Solving Problems
Dementia affects our cognitive abilities. This makes it hard for people with dementia to follow a problem, analyze solutions, or think in depth about the issue.
This could be shown with what were once simple tasks like paying bills or following a dinner recipe. You may also notice that this person is still able to get through problems and solve them, but it takes a significantly longer time for them to do it.
2. Confused About Where They Are
Dementia can make it hard for people to remember where they are. One minute they could be shopping at the grocery store, and the next they could be completely disoriented at why they aren’t at home.
They also might become confused about how they got there. They might not remember even if they drove themselves.
3. Confused About Time
Similar to location confusion, an early sign of dementia is confusion about time. This person might mix up what day, week, or even what month it is. They’ll often miss appointments or have trouble keeping track of what date it is.
Now, a normal sign of aging could be forgetting what day of the week it is. However, those without dementia are able to figure it out and remember soon after the confusion.
Those with dementia will remain confused and this will happen more consistently than with normal aging.
4. Difficulty Speaking and Maintaining Conversations
People with dementia can have trouble remembering the right word for things. They may struggle with their vocabulary, which can make it difficult understanding what they mean.
You’ll also notice that they’ll repeat themselves or lose their train of thought during conversations. Because of this, many people don’t speak as often or won’t try and join in conversations.
It’s also hard for people with dementia to understand how to join in on others’ conversations, since they can’t follow the topic easily or understand what people are saying.
5. Worsened Judgement
Dementia affects our cognition and decision-making skills. You might notice that people with dementia have worsened judgment and make poor decisions, especially ones that they wouldn’t have made months or years ago.
For example, they may fall for e-mail scams and give out their bank information. Or, they might stop keeping up with chores or fire at-home help on impulse.
Of course, we all make bad decisions sometimes. You’ll want to look for consistent bad judgment combined with other symptoms on this list before you conclude it’s dementia.
6. Misplacing Things
It makes sense that a memory disorder comes with losing things. We all lose things once in a while (where did I put my keys again?)
You should only become concerned when the person is unable to “retrace their steps” to find the item, when they put things in random/strange spots (keys in the fridge, milk in the bathroom, etc.) and/or if they are unable to problem solve and figure out where the item is.
7. Changed Mood/Personality
The reason for changed mood and/or personality traits with dementia is twofold. First, any disease that affects the brain can physically impact emotions, mental health, and personality.
There’s also the impact of the disease itself on mental health. People become embarrassed and ashamed of their symptoms. They can become frustrated with themselves and their inability to remember or do things they once did.
This can result in depression, anxiety, panic, anger, and more. You may notice that they are very easily disturbed or upset when plans or routines are changed/adjusted.
It can also lead to social isolation and withdrawal from their normal activities.
8. Memory Loss
We saved perhaps the most obvious symptom for last: memory loss. While this may be the most obvious early symptom, it’s also a hard one to spot since memory loss and difficulty is a normal part of aging.
So how can you tell whether you or your loved one’s memory loss is cause for concern?
With dementia, you’ll see consistent short-term memory loss. New information is hard to remember for them. This along with misplacing items, difficulty remembering dates/times, and short-term memory loss is all cause for concern.
People with dementia also have memory loss that affects their daily life. They’ll forget appointments, repeatedly ask for the same info/the same questions, and need constant reminders in the form of notes, alerts, etc.
What Are Your Options?
Did you read these early signs of dementia and become even more concerned about yourself or your loved one? First of all, don’t panic. These are all early signs, and catching it at this early stage is the best thing you can do.
Next, make an appointment with a doctor. They’ll be able to fully evaluate you or your loved one’s condition and get a treatment plan started. They’ll also help you compare treatment options and plans to get the best plan set up for your situation.
How to Tell If Someone Has Dementia: Wrapping Up
While these 8 signs are helpful for learning how to tell if someone has dementia, this is far from a definite and comprehensive list. If you have concerns, it’s always best to make an appointment with a doctor who will know exactly what to look for.
Are you worried about being able to afford treatment and doctors appointments? That shouldn’t even be on your radar when it comes to keeping yourself happy and healthy. Read this article on how to find inexpensive health insurance, even if you think you can’t afford insurance.