Wellness Wednesday: Top 10 Early Symptoms of Dementia

An estimated 47 million people worldwide are living with some type of dementia, per the World Health Organization, and that number will likely increase to 75 million by 2030. The WHO expects the number to triple by 2050.

Contrary to popular misconception, dementia isn’t a standardized syndrome. Different types of dementia affect the brain in very different ways, and as a result, some people ignore the early symptoms in themselves or their loved ones. Generally, dementia is progressive, so it gets worse over time, but early detection can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life. Listed below are some common warning symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory loss that disrupts daily life – One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

Challenges in planning or solving problems – Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or at leisure – People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

Confusion with time or place – People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships – For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

New problems with words in speaking or writing – People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps – A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

Decreased or poor judgment – People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

Withdrawal from work or social activities – A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

Changes in mood and personality – The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.