Early Signs of Dementia

Pamela Cannaday by Pamela Cannaday | Licensed since 2011
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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Some people worry that they might have early signs of dementia. If you forget a name now and then, or where you put your car keys, you might not have to worry that you have dementia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. This article is about early signs of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, in general.

Signs of dementia to watch for

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), forgetfulness isn’t the same thing as dementia. Forgetfulness can be a normal part of getting older, while dementia is not.

The table below lists behaviors that may be part of normal aging vs. possible signs of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Could be a normal part of aging Possible signs of dementia
Momentarily forgetting what day of the week it is Confusion about place or time (such as forgetting where you are or how you got there)
Occasional mistakes balancing your checkbook Having trouble remembering to pay bills or working with numbers
Searching for, or forgetting, a word from time to time Language difficulties (such as calling something by the wrong name, or losing the thread of a conversation)
Occasionally misplacing something, but you’re usually able to figure out where it is eventually Losing things or putting them in odd places
Momentarily forgetting names or appointments Memory loss that disrupts your everyday life
Making occasional bad decisions Showing poor judgment, such as not keeping yourself clean
Needing help using devices, like cell phones, from time to time Taking a long time to complete everyday routines
Needing a break from family or friends once in awhile Withdrawing from social contact (including at work)
Vision changes due to eye problems such as cataracts Trouble understanding visual images, such as judging distance or seeing colors or contrasts
Being set in your ways and perhaps somewhat inflexible Showing changes in your personality or moods

Early signs of dementia: next steps

It might be hard to tell whether the way someone’s acting is one of the early signs of dementia, or a normal part of getting older. If you notice any of the signs listed in the right side of the table above, you may wish to schedule a doctor visit. You might also want to take a look at these caregiver tips for someone with dementia.

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