Symptoms of Dementia Include Memory Loss

Dementia is a disease feared by nearly everyone entering their golden years. And the symptoms of dementia, in their early stages, can be quite subtle.

We might think we are imagining things, when in fact we have just taken the first steps down a very difficult road.

Dementia slowly robs us of who we are as individuals, inexorably erasing our very selves. Even so, dementia affects each person a little differently.

If you want to fight back against dementia, it is important to start early, so recognizing the symptoms of dementia is critical.

How can you recognize the onset of dementia? Common symptoms include:

  • Memory Loss.  The most common early symptom of dementia is short-term memory loss. In contrast with normal forgetfulness, people with dementia tend to forget entire blocks of information. For example, someone with an ordinary moment of forgetfulness might forget their an item on their to-do list; someone with dementia will forget why they left the house at all.
  • symptoms of dementia

  • Disorientation.  While we may normally forget our phone number or the day of the week, someone with dementia might not know where they are, how they got there, how to get home, or even whether it is night or day.
  • Problems with Abstract Thinking.  Calculating how much to tip the waiter at a restaurant can be difficult for anyone. A person with dementia may forget what the numbers are and what they are supposed to do with them.
  • Poor judgement.  We all make bad choices sometimes, but people with dementia will make inappropriate choices that a normal person never would. For example, they might not dress properly, going outside in winter with too few clothes on or too many clothes on a hot summer day.
  • Language difficulties.  All of us sometimes have trouble finding the right words for what we want to say. A person with dementia forgets simple words, or substitutes odd words for the words they cannot remember. Often their speech or writing is difficult to understand.
  • Problems with familiar tasks.  Most people do not forget how to do routine tasks such as combing their hair, the rules of driving, or how to get dressed. Someone with dementia might sometimes or often have trouble remembering how to perform steps they have done thousands of times in the past.
  • Losing things.  Everyone loses their keys once in a while. Someone with dementia will put their keys in inappropriate places such the dishwasher, or they might put their glasses in the oven.
  • Mood or behavior changes.  Sufferers of dementia can experience rapid mood swings or loss of emotion.
  • Personality changes.  Someone with dementia can seem different from their usual self in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. A normally agreeable person may develop a short fuse and become angry at the slightest provocation, for example. Often these changes in personality result from the person's frustration with thier memory problems.
  • Loss of motivation.  A person with dementia may lose interest in life-long hobbies, may sleep all the time, or may sit in front of the television all the time.
  • Vision problems.  Poor vision can be a predictor or a symptom of dementia.

The symptoms of dementia increase gradually. In fact, the person experiencing the symptoms might not recogize what is happening at first. A friend or family member might be the one who notices initially.

If you start to notice symptoms of dementia in yourself or a loved one, do not panic. A certain decrease in energy and intellectual capability with aging is probably normal.

Before jumping to conclusions, consult with a physican. They may be able to tell you whether to worry about the symptoms, treat them, or simply adjust your lifestyle to accomodate them.

Of course, it never hurts to take steps on your own to improve your health and exercise your brain. Some research suggests that the more you use your brain, the better chance you have of minimizing, delaying, or even avoiding the onset of dementia.

Suggestions on how you can do this are provided on the main Dementia page.

Note: All information on this website is intended for reference and educational purposes only. This is not medical advice, and there is no subsitute for consulting with your physician.

Published: 01/02/2011
Last Updated: 06/11/2020

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