Early Stages of Dementia: Signs and Symptoms

General Health

Early Stages of Dementia: Signs and Symptoms

Early Stages of Dementia: Signs and Symptoms

When it comes to dementia, early diagnosis helps families get the care and support they need. Cognitive decline can be managed with early detection and treatment. It’s also important to remember that memory problems and poor mental function aren’t always signs of dementia. A certain amount of forgetfulness and poor judgment is normal, but these symptoms can also be signs of other illnesses. Therefore it is crucial to learn about the early stages of dementia and its signs and symptoms.

Mild cognitive impairment in the earliest stages of dementia is often difficult to spot. The information below can help you determine if you or someone you love is displaying dementia symptoms. Keep reading to learn the most common warning signs and other useful information for assisting a person with dementia.

What are the Early Stages of Dementia and its Signs and Symptoms?

There are many types of dementia, and most of them develop gradually. Many people in the earliest stages have very mild symptoms and require minimal assistance. As these diseases progress, memory, thinking and decision-making become increasingly impaired to the point of disrupting daily life.

Understanding early-stage dementia is a crucial element of dementia prevention.

Early Signs of Dementia

Let’s look at some common signs of early dementia:

  • Memory loss, especially relating to recent events
  • Impaired concentration
  • Struggling to complete daily tasks
  • Behavioral and psychological symptoms such as apathy and depression

Family members sometimes interpret these changes as normal for older adults, but they’re signs something is wrong. Below we’ll take a more detailed look at how dementia symptoms can play out in daily life.

Common Early Symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia can affect people differently, and there are several types, but there are still some common symptoms to look out for. If you or a loved one regularly displays more than one of the symptoms below, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare provider.

Disoriented senior man suffering from an early stage dementia.

Memory Loss

It’s perfectly normal to occasionally forget appointments or have trouble finding your keys or phone. However, someone with dementia might regularly forget things or forget what a key’s function is.

Impaired Planning, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

Someone with dementia might struggle to follow recipes, keep up with their finances or make plans for the future. They might not remember how to dress appropriately for the weather or might get confused more easily.

Disorientation and Poor Judgment

The memory issues associated with dementia can cause an individual to get lost, even in familiar settings. It’s common for everyone to walk into a room and forget why they went there now and then, but someone who’s living with dementia might get lost on a walk to the shops and forget where they are entirely.

Communication and Language Issues That Impact Everyday Life

People with dementia might forget not only which day of the week it is, but the words to describe days of the week. It takes longer to communicate because they can have difficulty finding the right word and might repeat themselves.

Challenges With Time-Keeping

If someone is showing early symptoms of dementia, they might lose track of the passage of time and forget things such as which season it is. They might forget appointments, even if they’re written down on a planner or calendar.

Trouble Carrying Out Familiar Tasks

Being forgetful from time to time isn’t a cause for concern. However, if someone forgets how to complete tasks they carry out regularly, such as how to get dressed or prepare a simple meal, they might be showing signs of dementia.

Mood and Personality Changes

It’s common for people with dementia to experience changes in their mood and personality. Depression is often seen, and a person might go from being outgoing to shy and fearful.

Son taking care of his father who's suffering from dementia.

Diagnosis of Dementia

Speak to your primary care team if you suspect you might have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. They’ll take your medical history into consideration and conduct a range of tests, such as brain imaging, psychiatric assessment, lab tests and cognitive tests. It’s important to rule out other health conditions with dementia-like symptoms, such as:

  • Neurological disorders
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Brain tumors
  • Brain health issues such as stroke
  • Thyroid, liver, lung and heart problems

Types of Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is probably the most well-known form of dementia, characterized by dementia symptoms that get worse over time. It primarily impacts the part of the brain associated with learning, so issues with reasoning and problem-solving are typically early symptoms.

Below are examples of other types of dementia:

  • Vascular dementia results from insufficient oxygen getting to the brain and can be caused by stroke or narrowed blood vessels.
  • Frontotemporal dementia can impact speech or behavior, depending on which part of the brain it affects.
  • Lewy body dementia occurs when there’s a buildup of a protein called alpha-synuclein and can cause muscle stiffness, tremors and cognitive issues.
  • Cognitive dementia can manifest as word-finding difficulties, short-term memory loss and mild problems performing daily tasks.
  • Early-onset dementia and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease are the terms used when someone is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease under age 65.

Dementia Risk Factors

These are some of the main risk factors for dementia:

  • Age is the main risk factor, and your risk of developing dementia increases as you get older.
  • Women are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, while men are at a greater risk of other forms of dementia.
  • Genetics play a role in determining who gets dementia, although the extent isn’t fully known.
  • High blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other vascular issues can increase the risk of dementia.
  • Vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin D, are thought to play a role in the development of dementia.

Memory Care in a Homelike Setting

Early diagnosis of dementia can make all the difference when it comes to planning for a secure future and getting the help and guidance you and your family need. For many people, moving into a memory care community provides social nourishment, memory care activities, around-the-clock care and safety.

Find out more about our person-centered dementia patient care program at Cedar Creek Memory Care Homes in Maryland.

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