Recognizing Early Signs of Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are complex conditions that many people don’t fully understand, even when it impacts their own family. In fact, many are not aware that dementia is not a disease itself but rather a collection of symptoms that results from damage to the brain. 

It can be hard to recognize the early stages of dementia in someone you love, as not everyone exhibits the symptoms the same way. Sometimes the signs are so subtle that you might attribute them to your family member having a bad day or being tired. Other times, you might assume that what they’re experiencing is normal and simply a sign of aging. Lastly, many people tend to associate memory loss as the only real sign of dementia and don’t know about the other symptoms that might occur. 

At Uplands Village, we offer memory care and support to families in Pleasant Hill and beyond who are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. We believe that individuals can, and should, live purposeful and meaningful lives regardless of their health status. To better support family members, we’re sharing some of the early signs of dementia that you can watch for in your family member or loved one.  

Memory Loss 

While memory loss is not the only sign of dementia, it is one that should be monitored, especially when it starts to disrupt an individual’s daily life. Memory loss associated with dementia usually includes recently learned information—forgetting a detail about a vacation taken ten years ago isn’t a cause for concern, but not remembering the guests who came over yesterday is. 

Other signs of memory loss in the early stage of dementia include: 

  • Forgetting important events and dates (their wedding anniversary, first child’s birthday, etc.) 
  • Having to ask the same question over and over again 
  • Putting down an item and not remembering where they left it 
  • Repeating parts of conversations and phrases 

Personality or Behavior Changes 

In addition to memory loss, personality or behavior changes could be another sign of dementia. Many individuals in the early stages experience abrupt mood swings that can emerge for no apparent reason. For example, they might rapidly switch from calm to angry to upset and can eventually exhibit more significant behavioral changes like aggression, paranoia, or delusions. These can all be attributed to changes in the brain and don’t necessarily represent the person you know and love. 

Apathy or Depression 

More than just rapid mood swings, another behavioral sign of dementia is feeling withdrawn, indifferent, or depressed. For example, your family member may show little interest in hobbies or activities they used to enjoy or become more detached during social gatherings. 

Disorientation and Confusion 

Feeling confused or disoriented is another common occurrence in those in the early stages of dementia. They might have trouble keeping track of dates, times, and places or end up somewhere and get confused about how they got there. This disorientation can also impact a person’s sense of direction, making it difficult for them to find their way to a familiar place. 

Difficulty with Complex Tasks 

Another thing to look for is if your family member has been having increasing difficulty with complex tasks or even tasks that should be familiar to them. Dementia can make it challenging to plan, organize, or follow directions, even if it’s a task they’ve done many times before. 

Some examples of tasks that your family member might get confused about include: 

  • Following a favorite cookie recipe 
  • Planning a trip 
  • Remember the rules to a favorite game 
  • Managing finances or balancing a checkbook 
  • Getting confused about the correct change while shopping 
  • Organizing a grocery list or preparing a large meal 

Lack of Judgement 

While it’s normal to keep driving after your gas light comes on every once in a while, consistently ignoring warning signals like that or demonstrating other lapses in judgment could be a warning sign of dementia. Other instances of this could include:

  • Forgoing bathing for several days
  • Choosing clothes inappropriate for the weather
  • Giving away money for a scam

These lapses in judgment might start insignificant but can worsen over time and eventually cause danger or harm. 

When to See a Healthcare Professional 

If your family member is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see their healthcare provider sooner than later. While these are all signs of dementia, many can also be attributed to other conditions like depression, diabetes, or simply aging. In addition, visiting a doctor can give you a better understanding of what exactly is going on and what you can expect as things progress. 

Know Your Options

If your loved one is diagnosed with a form of dementia, there are many resources and support options available. As soon as you notice the early signs of dementia, it can be valuable to research more about the disease so you can be educated on the best ways to manage symptoms. As time goes on, you might be interested in learning about dementia care communities, special neighborhoods dedicated solely to the wellness of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. 
Uplands Village offers memory care services to families in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee. Our care is compassionate and professional as we create meaningful moments for each of our residents. To learn more about memory care at Uplands Village, visit our website.