How to Recognize Dementia: 7 Early Signs

Dementia is a term that describes a variety of symptoms affecting a person’s cognitive functioning. The most recognizable being their ability to think, remember and reason. It is a disease that can be characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

Every person is unique, and dementia affects people differently – no two people will have symptoms that develop in the same way. Signs of dementia can go unnoticed for a long time because the changes that occur in your loved one can be small at first. But over time they become more obvious.

Some of the most common early symptoms of dementia are:

Memory loss: Most people occasionally forget things more frequently as they age. They usually can recall them later if their memory loss is age-related and not due to dementia. A person with dementia, however, may find it difficult to recall information they have recently learned, such as dates, events or new information. They will also often experience problems with memory that can affect their day-to day activities.

Difficulty concentrating: An early sign of dementia is the impact on one’s attention span and ability to concentrate. Your loved one may get distracted easily and have difficulty focusing which can impact their ability to problem solve, as well as decrease their learning speed and cause them to have a slower reaction time.

Mood or behavior changes: Another early sign of dementia is a change in personality, such as feeling fearful, anxious, confused, depressed or suspicious when out of their comfort zone. Your loved one may also be very emotional and have extreme mood swings.

Difficulty finding the right words: Struggling to communicate thoughts can be another indication of the disease. A person with dementia may have difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves.

Misplacing things: A person with dementia may not be able to remember where they leave everyday objects, such as the remote control, important documents, cash or their keys. They may act out and become paranoid or accusatory of others of stealing their belongings.

Challenges completing normal tasks: A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks may indicate that someone is experiencing cognitive decline. This usually starts showing when they have difficulty doing more complex tasks like balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules. Along with the challenge to complete familiar tasks, they may also struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.

Withdrawal from social or work activities: Someone in the early stages of the disease may begin to isolate themselves from work or social gatherings because of other changes like confusion, disorientation and loss of speech. They may withdraw out of embarrassment or fear.

Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, but it can affect younger people too. If you, or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, there are resources out there to help you understand the disease. You also can consider professional dementia care services that not only support the person living with dementia, but the family as a whole.

This article is provided by Dr. Deborah Moerland, Owner, FirstLight Home Care Greater Lansing, MI. For more information, visit us online at or call us at 517-483-2784.