What are the First Signs of Dementia?

Dementia is most common in people over the age of 65. Most of the people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are aged 85 or older. However, dementia sometimes starts developing even in people in their 30s, 40, and 50s.

In the beginning, dementia usually slowly progresses. The early signs of dementia often develop gradually, so they can go unnoticed for a long time. Another problem with early detection of dementia is that the symptoms often vary, so people may fail to recognize them. Because of high the prevalence of dementia in seniors over the age of 85, many people tend to mistakenly believe that early signs of dementia are a normal part of aging.

However, dementia is not a natural part of growing old. So, if you notice any of the following early signs of dementia in your loved one or in yourself, talk to your health provider. 

The first signs of dementia usually include:

  • Memory loss
  • Problem-solving difficulties
  • Poor judgment and decision-making
  • A decline in visual perception
  • Displacing things
  • Struggling to adapt to change
  • Being repetitive
  • Language and speech difficulties
  • Personality and behavior changes
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal and Isolation
  • Aggressive behavior

As the symptoms progressively get worse, the person with dementia needs more support from others for performing activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, eating, and grooming. At a moderate stage of the illness, your loved one with dementia may become fully dependent on a caregiver to meet their basic needs. At this stage it is probably not safe to leave the person with dementia unattended, so you should arrange that someone lives with the senior or consider relocating your loved one in residential care.

Whether someone will develop dementia or not depends on several factors. Research shows that factors such as the person’s age, genetics, certain health factors, and lifestyle may increase the risk of developing dementia.

While there is no known way to prevent dementia, factors such as a healthy diet, exercise, socializing, and cognitive training can slow down the progression of the disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms

Many people believe that the terms Alzheimer’s and dementia are synonyms, but this is not true. Dementia is not a specific disease but the overall term that describes a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with day to day life. On the other hand, Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

While memory problems are commonly one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s, the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may vary from person to person. The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Memory loss, especially for the most recent events
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty speaking and troubles with finding the right words
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Confusion
  • Vision and special issues
  • Behavior changes

Even though some other types of dementia share many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, these other types also include or exclude other symptoms that can help make a differential diagnosis.

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