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Dementia, a condition affecting over three million individuals annually in the United States, remains a significant medical challenge as a cure continues to elude us. Despite this, hope is not lost. A range of treatments, including medications and therapeutic approaches, are available to enhance the quality of life for those living with dementia, effectively slowing its progression. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, but it still presents its own distinct symptoms.

Join us as we uncover the critical signs of this condition. This knowledge is not just power—it's a step towards empathy and support for those affected. Keep reading to empower yourself with essential insights into dementia.

Short-Term loss of memory

Many patients with dementia may experience problems with all types of memory loss. The most common symptom is short-term memory loss. Someone with this type of memory impairment may have difficulty recalling something that took place hours or even minutes ago. However, they may remember something that happened twenty years ago. Some patients and their loved ones attribute this symptom to stress or having a lot on their minds. However, this is one of the most prominent early warning signs of dementia.

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Trouble communicating

Another early warning sign is the way that dementia can affect how a person speaks. Many people with dementia have difficulty finding the right words, which can cause them to become quieter than they were. Often, they cease to communicate with friends and family.

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Confusion

Another early warning symptom that may indicate dementia is confusion. This can range from a bit of cloudiness to a constant state of mental disarray. A commonly reported manifestation of confusion is the inability to match a face with a name. Confusion may also cause a person to use poor judgment. In some cases, a person with dementia may cease to interact with people, withdrawing from activities they once enjoyed.

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Moodiness

A person with dementia may experience mood swings or shifts. This symptom is often dependent upon the other symptoms they happen to be experiencing that particular day. For example, when a patient has a hard time remembering where they left their car keys, it can create a pattern for the entire day, often ending in depression and anxiety. People with dementia typically do not realize that their moods are changing from one minute to the next. They may even become combative when confronted about these shifts.

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Inability to understand sarcasm

Patients with dementia often have a difficult time understanding sarcasm. As brain functions become muddled, the patient may become incapable of distinguishing between sarcasm and seriousness and will begin to take everything literally, misunderstanding common expressions and figures of speech.

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Inability to perform simple tasks

Completing normal daily activities and chores can become complicated for a person with dementia. The disease can completely alter the way the mind processes vital information. This means that a person with dementia may forget how to tie their shoes. Some may attempt to teach themselves a more complicated way to complete a basic task that they've been doing since childhood. This symptom can affect their ability to learn new things, as well. An inability to perform simple tasks makes working outside of the home difficult. At this stage, patients with dementia generally require live-in assistance.

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Repetition

Patients with dementia may begin to develop problems with repetition that can range in severity. An individual may forget if they went to the grocery store or washed their car and, as a result, repeat these tasks. This may eventually progress into completing tasks over and over again. They may even begin untying their shoes and then retying them several times within the same hour. This early warning sign can often be confusing, causing friends and family members to associate it with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Loss of interest

People with dementia typically experience a loss of interest in life. This is why it is so important they receive counseling or work with a mental health care provider to help prevent or delay the onset of depression and anxiety. Combined with the other symptoms of dementia, these feelings can be extremely dangerous. Friends and family members should continue to involve their loved one in activities and help them maintain their regular schedule where possible.

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Falling

Another early warning sign of dementia is increased instances of falling. People may find it difficult to tell their feet where to go. They may misjudge their steps and fall down on stairs or sidewalks. They may also begin to lose their sense of direction. Many even forget where they live. For this reason, it is important that a person with dementia be closely cared for by friends, family, or in-home health care professionals.

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Problems coping

People who have dementia have a difficult time coping with the changes occurring in their lives. They often feel as if someone has completely taken over their minds and that they are rarely in control of any scenario or circumstance. This can create a lot of fear, and can be one more incentive for an individual to start withdrawing from society. He or she may also begin to crave a strict routine, hoping to avoid as many surprise situations as possible.

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Difficulty planning or solving problems

Many individuals experiencing the early stages of dementia find it increasingly hard to plan out their day or solve problems that were once straightforward for them. This could manifest in difficulties with following recipes they once knew by heart, managing their monthly bills, or even planning a simple outing. The frustration that comes with these challenges can be disheartening, serving as a subtle yet significant sign that something more serious may be affecting their cognitive functions.

Elderly man has difficulties with planning, flat vector illustration isolated on white background. Retired age mental and memory disorders as Alzheimers or dementia.

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Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

For some, dementia brings about unexpected changes in visual perception. This symptom can be particularly alarming, as it affects the ability to judge distances, differentiate colors, or navigate through traffic safely. Those affected might find themselves struggling to read their favorite books, missing steps on stairs, or having difficulty recognizing familiar faces, all of which are crucial aspects of maintaining independence and living a quality life.

Old man having trouble with understanding visual images. Elderly man staring at painting but it seems vaguely. Having poor eyesight concept. Flat vector illustration

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New problems with words in speaking or writing

Communication forms the essence of our social existence, but dementia can hinder this basic human connection. Affected individuals may find themselves searching for common words, stopping mid-sentence, unable to continue, or substituting usual terms with unusual or incorrect ones. This extends beyond oral communication to affect writing abilities, making it challenging to keep up with personal or professional correspondence.

senior man alzheimer problem writing at home closeup help alone

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Unable to retrace steps

One of the signs of cognitive decline is not just forgetting where one has placed an item but also losing the ability to backtrack mentally to find it. This goes beyond the occasional forgetfulness seen in healthy aging individuals, such as misplacing keys, to more significant issues, like storing important items in unusual places. It can lead to frustration and accusations of theft, further complicating relationships and daily living.

Illustration of an elderly man who gets lost due to dementia

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Poor judgement

Dementia can cloud judgment, leading to decisions that are out of character or potentially harmful. This might manifest in poor financial decisions, neglect of personal hygiene, or inappropriate behavior in social interactions. Such changes often raise red flags for family members, signaling that their loved one's cognitive abilities may be diminishing.

Oct.14th 2022 Uttarakhand, India. Neglected foot nails of an Indian adult with unhygienic feet conditions. Concept of self-care and personal hygiene.

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Withdrawal from work or social activities

A once vibrant social life can dwindle as the individual with dementia finds it harder to engage in social conversations, follow along with hobbies, or keep up with the pace of group activities. This withdrawal is not just a loss of interest but a coping mechanism for the increasing difficulties faced in social settings, marking a profound change in the person's lifestyle and engagement with the world around them.

A lethargic senior man lying on the couch. Signs of frailty

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Changes in personality

Dementia can lead to dramatic shifts in mood and personality, with individuals becoming easily upset, anxious, or depressed. These changes are particularly challenging for family members, as they may see their loved one become suspicious, fearful, or resistant to help. Understanding that these behaviors are symptoms of the disease rather than personal choices can help caregivers approach their loved ones with empathy and more patience.

Adult male dementia reactions mood change.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.