- Early Warning Signs of Dementia & Alzheimer’s
- The Top 10 Signs of Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease
- What Are the Early Signs of Dementia?
- What Can You Do About It?
- Dementia & Alzheimer's Infographic
- Frequently Asked Questions About Dementia
- Early signs of dementia
- What are the signs of dementia?
- Memory problems
- Decline in communication skills
- Recognition and coordination difficulties
- Changes in behaviour, judgement and moods
- Loss of daily life skills
- Recognise These 12 Early Signs of Dementia
- Watch for these 12 Early Signs of Dementia (And How to Help When You See Them)
- An Early Signs of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Checklist
- How Caregivers Can Support a Loved One in the Early Stages of Dementia
- How to Prevent Dementia
Early Warning Signs of Dementia & Alzheimer’s
As we grow older, certain things begin to change. Skin loses some of its elasticity, hair starts to gray, hearing and vision begin to decline, metabolism slows down, bones lose some of their density, and exercise becomes tiring far more quickly.
These are all normal signs of aging.
Throw in bouts of memory loss, changes in mood or behavior, and difficulty completing everyday tasks, and these normal signs of aging could be something more; they could be early symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, affecting roughly 5.7 million Americans. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Even still, many people overlook the early signs of Alzheimer's disease, thereby failing to proactively slow its progression while it is still possible to do so.
If you are concerned that a loved one is developing characteristics of dementia or Alzheimer's, it is important you dedicate time to studying the condition and fight back. There are steps you can take to improve quality of life.
The Top 10 Signs of Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease
The key to managing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia is to catch it early. According to the Alzheimer's Association, brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease begin as long as 20 years before symptoms appear, so it pays to be on the lookout for any and all signs and symptoms.
Here are the top 10 warning signs of dementia and Alzheimer's disease:
- Memory loss that has an impact on daily life.
This may include forgetting recently learned information, keeping track of important dates, and repeatedly asking for the same information.
- Having trouble planning or solving problems.
The patient may have trouble working with numbers, following a recipe, or keeping track of monthly expenses.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
This could include basic tasks at home or at work such as driving to a familiar location, remembering the rules of a game, or performing tasks at work.
- Increasing confusion with time or place.
The patient might lose track of seasons, dates, and the passage of time in general – they may have trouble understanding something if it isn't happening immediately.
- Trouble comprehending spatial relationships and visual imagery.
This could take the form of difficulty reading, identifying colors, or judging distances.
- Difficulty with words in writing or speaking.
The patient might have trouble keeping track of a conversation, difficulty finding the right word, or call things by the wrong name.
- Losing things and being unable to retrace steps.
The patient might lose track of things and be unable to retrace steps to find it – they may even accuse other people of stealing the misplaced object.
- Changes in decision-making and judgment.
This could include poor judgment with money, having trouble making decisions, or neglecting basic hygiene and personal grooming.
- Becoming withdrawn and avoiding social activity.
The patient might remove themselves from work or social activities and may neglect hobbies they once enjoyed.
- Changes in personality, mood, and behavior.
This could include increased confusion, depression, and anxiety, as well as more volatile emotions such as becoming easily upset or developing paranoia.
If you are concerned that a loved one might be exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's or dementia, the first step is to talk to your physician.
It is estimated that a skilled physician can diagnose Alzheimer's disease at a rate of 90% accuracy; the earlier you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can start taking steps to slow the progression of the disease to maintain your loved one's quality of life.
What Are the Early Signs of Dementia?
Symptoms of dementia are caused by changes in the brain; changes that can begin years before early dementia signs present themselves.
There are three general stages for Alzheimer's – mild (early stage), moderate (middle stage), and severe (late stage).
The speed at which a patient moves through these stages varies, but progression of the symptoms themselves follows a fairly standardized path.
The most common early dementia symptoms are forgetfulness and short-term memory loss. Patients may forget where they left something or have trouble recalling the details of a conversation, but long-term memory and the remembering of important dates or events is typically unaffected in early stages of dementia.
As the symptoms of Alzheimer's progress, patients become increasingly confused about simple facts such as time or place and may have difficulty concentrating; they can still complete regular tasks, but concentrating may take longer than usual.
Over time, symptoms of dementia may include frequently misplacing objects and an increased difficulty completing daily tasks. Patients are more ly to lose things and may have trouble retracing their steps to find them.
This sometimes progresses to feelings of paranoia or accusations of theft when the patient cannot find something they unknowingly misplaced. Patients may also start to have trouble with daily tasks such as driving, cooking, or engaging in hobbies.
Changes in vision and depth perception may also lead to increased clumsiness, falls, and other accidents.
In the middle stages of Alzheimer's, patients begin to have trouble with language and math. They may forget common words and have trouble working with numbers.
This then progresses to changes in decision-making and problem-solving abilities. Patients may be at risk for reckless spending, making unsound decisions, or falling victim to scams.
It is also fairly common for Alzheimer's patients to dress inappropriately for the weather.
As the early signs of Alzheimer's progress into later stages of the disease, patients may exhibit changes in personality or behavior. Problems such as mood swings, fear, depression, and anxiety are very common. Patients may also become upset or frustrated more easily than usual.
Over time, dementia patients start to neglect simple aspects of personal hygiene, failing to bathe or brush their teeth on a regular basis. They may also stop cleaning the home and start to accumulate clutter.
As these symptoms worsen, patients may begin to withdraw from family, friends, and activities once enjoyed due to anxiety or embarrassment at their inability to converse or function as they did previously.
What Can You Do About It?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Association, 1 in 10 seniors over the age of 65 has dementia. Though the disease affects each patient differently, most people with Alzheimer's live only 4 to 8 years after diagnosis.
While you cannot reverse dementia or the damage it causes, there are ways to improve quality of life. Here are some simple tips for management that you can discuss with your doctor:
- Take prescription medications to counteract cognitive and behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
- Find support in the form of therapy, support groups, friends, or family to help develop coping mechanisms for cognitive and behavioral changes.
- Address safety issues in the home by installing safety bars in the bathroom and shower, automatic shut-off switches on appliances, and reminders to lock the door.
- Stay on top of co-existing conditions, working with your doctor to manage medical problems with the proper form of treatment.
- Follow a healthy diet that supports brain health and function. Focus on antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, natural sources of omega fatty acids, and foods high in fiber and protein.
- Talk to your doctor about taking supplements to support memory and cognitive function. Options you might consider include caprylic acid, coenzyme Q10, ginkgo biloba, phosphatidylserine, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Caring for someone with dementia is a major responsibility. While one can never be fully prepared, use these tips as a guideline toward mitigating symptoms and improving overall quality of life. Carefully monitor progression of the disease and report any changes to your doctor.
Dementia & Alzheimer's Infographic
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Early Warning Signs of Dementia & Alzheimer's (Infographic) created by Keystone Health
Frequently Asked Questions About Dementia
- What are the early signs and symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's?
Some of the most common early signs of dementia and Alzheimer's symptoms include trouble remembering recent events, difficulty concentrating, increased mental confusion, changes in behavior or personality, apathy or withdrawal, and depression or anxiety.
While these first signs of dementia may seem somewhat unassuming it is important to notice when these symptoms are occurring on a regular basis.
- Is short-term memory loss a sign of dementia?
Changes in memory is a normal sign of aging, but significant memory loss may be a sign of dementia.
Additionally, having trouble remembering recently learned information can be an early warning sign of dementia.
- What is the life expectancy of someone with dementia?
Life expectancy depends largely on the patient's age and health, and can range anywhere from 1 to 26 years, according to one study.
Every case is different, and it depends on the type of dementia the patient has. The general life expectancy for an Alzheimer's patient is 8 to 12 years from the date of diagnosis. Patients diagnosed around the age of 60 tend to decline more slowly than those diagnosed over the age of 80.
- Can dementia be cured?
There is no curative treatment for dementia currently available and no vaccination to prevent it. Medication is available to help relieve symptoms, and certain lifestyle changes may slow the progression of the disease.
- At what age do people typically develop dementia?
Dementia is most commonly seen in individuals over the age of 65, though it can develop earlier. Roughly 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have early onset Alzheimer's – roughly 5% of all Alzheimer's cases.
Early onset dementia signs may begin as early as one's 30s, although this is uncommon. Signs of early onset dementia symptoms can often be reflected in struggles with memory, decision making, confusion, and depression.
- What is the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia?
The word dementia may be used to identify a collection of symptoms that may include changes in memory, decision-making, orientation, planning, communication, and mood or behavior. These symptoms can be caused by a variety of diseases, one of which is Alzheimer's.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases.
- Is there a screening process for dementia?
For those wondering how to diagnose dementia, unfortunately there is no definitive test — but that isn't to say that it can't be identified by a medical professional.
Currently, there is no screening available because there is no accurate way to identify the disease during early stage dementia. If you are concerned about memory problems or other symptoms that could be attributed to Alzheimer's or dementia, seek medical advice from your doctor.
They will be able to provide a variety of tests to help determine if the symptoms exhibited represent any form of dementia.
- What does dementia do to the brain?
Causes of dementia all center around damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain.
This can be caused from a wide variety of factors including family history and genetic disorders, old age (as seen with Alzheimer's disease), infections causing high fever, accumulation of clumps of protein in the brain, vitamin deficiencies, alcohol abuse, brain tumors, and more.
Depending on the portion of the brain being affected, the dementia may show up in different ways with varying symptoms.
- Can dementia come on suddenly?
In most cases, dementia has a gradual build-up before its presence is apparent; however, it can seemingly appear suddenly in instances where strokes are involved.
This condition is called vascular dementia, and it occurs when vessels that supply blood to the brain become blocked or narrowed. This condition occurs over time but goes unnoticed as «silent» strokes accumulate. Only once these strokes have caused a significant disability does it come to light that vascular dementia has occurred.
- Do people with dementia know they have it?
Whether or not people living with dementia recognize that something is wrong often is determined by the stage of dementia they are in at the point of diagnosis and how lucid they are. Still, a recent review of data from 585 Medicare recipients with probable dementia found that almost 60% were either undiagnosed or unaware of their diagnosis.
See how Keystone Health can help.
Early signs of dementia
It’s not easy to spot the early signs of dementia in someone we are caring for. If a person is struggling to remember a name, follow a conversation or recall what they did yesterday, many of us may put it down to the fact that the person is getting older. But it may well be a warning that they are in the early stages of dementia.
Family, friends and care workers are ly to be the first to see the signs and play a key role in encouraging a person receiving care to see a GP.
Because I was with my wife continuously, I think I was less ly to recognise some of the changes that were taking place than people who saw her less regularly.
A carer speaking about his wife’s early signs of dementia, healthtalk website
A doctor can help establish whether a person has dementia – or a treatable illness or condition that can cause dementia- symptoms, such as depression, a urinary infection or nutritional disorders.
What are the signs of dementia?
Changes in a person in the early stages of dementia can be so gradual they can often be mistaken for normal ageing. Because dementia affects people in different ways, symptoms may not always be obvious. In fact, failure to recognise early signs often leads to people not being diagnosed for several years.
So what to look for? Perhaps someone you care for is struggling to remember what they did yesterday and forgets the names of friends or everyday objects.
They may have difficulty following conversations or TV programmes, repeat things over and over, or have problems thinking or reasoning.
They may feel angry, anxious or depressed about memory loss or feel confused even in a familiar environment.
The healthtalk website presents a range of carers’ experiences of identifying the early signs of dementia. One carer put it this way.
The first stage is not recognisable I think, or certainly wasn’t recognisable as far as I was concerned initially (mainly the behavioural changes that were taking place). I was certainly not understanding…
the fact that my wife was at the beginning of a serious problem, a serious mental health problem.
Because I was with my wife continuously, I think I was less ly to recognise some of the changes that were taking place than people who saw her less regularly.
Since 2008, the Alzheimer’s Society has run an important campaign, called Worried about your memory?.
It aims to raise awareness about dementia and encourage people who are worried about their memory to seek help from their GP.
The campaign comes with a leaflet, translated into 13 languages, giving examples of early signs of dementia and a video promoting the need to recognise early signs and take action.
Losing house or car keys, forgetting a name or where you have put the passport is something that happens to all of us at one time or another. Our memory can become less reliable as we get older or be temporarily affected by the stresses and strains of everyday life, depression, anxiety, poor health and the side-effects of some medications.
When someone has a declining short-term memory that begins to have an impact on their work, social and home life, it may be an early sign of dementia. They may not just lose things (such as keys or remote controls) or misplace them in odd places, they may forget what they are for.
They may forget to do simple household jobs or go to the shops and forget what they want to buy. They may have difficulty remembering something they have just read or seen on the TV, in recognising familiar faces (such as the Prime Minister) or recalling recent events.
However, they may be able to recall in detail things that happened many years ago.
View the full video
Decline in communication skills
If someone is struggling to follow or join a conversation, repeats questions, words and phrases and has difficulty saying or finding the rights words, they may be showing early signs of dementia. A person may experience difficulties understanding what is being said, they may appear vague or have a puzzled expression, or just nod in response rather than reply.
They may lose their way in the middle of a sentence and struggle to describe a recent event, television programme or meeting. They may use the wrong words or pronounce them incorrectly, have difficulty describing a particular object (for example, referring to the sun as a ‘shiny red ball in the sky’) and find it hard to understand jokes or pick up on subtle or hidden meanings.
This carer explains what she noticed about changes in her husband’s speech – an early sign of his dementia:
His speech also became very, less clear. He’d always been a very clear and decisive speaker using the right words and syntax and everything. He stumbled for a word – a perfectly normal word, nothing peculiar – and was not able to grasp what had been said to him very quickly. And after about a year I thought maybe he’d had a slight stroke.
We live in a multicultural society with a rich mix of people from different backgrounds and cultures where English is often not their first language.
Care workers also have to consider that a person with early signs of dementia may revert to language from their cultural roots as their communication abilities decline.
It is important that people with dementia and their families are provided with information in their preferred language.
Recognition and coordination difficulties
A person showing early signs of dementia may put everyday things in unusual places (for example, a loaf of bread in the washing machine, money in the oven, or washing-up liquid in the fridge). They may have difficulty recognising familiar items such as a chair, soap, toothbrush, cutlery, kettle, coffee jar, cooker or fridge.
Signs of a loss of coordination skills can include struggling to undo or do up buttons, to tie or untie shoes and neckties, and to use a hair brush or razor. They may be more subtle, such as putting down a cup of tea too close to the edge of a table or having difficulties lifting a teapot or kettle or using a knife to cut vegetables or fruit.
Getting lost when driving or walking in familiar areas and not being able to recall the date, day of the week or time may be early signs of dementia. Confusing day and night (say by sleeping during the day and staying awake most of the night), not knowing the season or year and getting ready for a social event or appointment on the wrong day are indications of time disorientation.
Someone who becomes lost or confused in their own home (perhaps they start looking for the fridge or kettle in the bedroom or bathroom), has difficulties in remembering how to get to a friend’s home, or who struggles to find their way around familiar shops, offices or other buildings is showing signs of place disorientation.
Changes in behaviour, judgement and moods
Becoming quiet, withdrawn or restless – or frustrated or angry – can be early signs of dementia.
Someone may develop repetitive behaviour – for example, they ask the same question over and over again, do the same thing repeatedly or make multiple phone calls to the same person.
They may become insecure and anxious or start hiding and losing items. They may withdraw from social activities or give up hobbies and interests they have enjoyed.
They may show poor judgement, for example putting summer clothes on in cold winter months, not knowing when a kettle is full or overfilling cups when making cold and hot drinks, putting a kettle on the hob or leaving a cooker on or tap running. Someone with dementia may become very emotional and experience rapid mood swings – or become quieter and less emotional than usual.
Loss of daily life skills
A home that may not be as well kept as usual (perhaps not cleaned, with date food in the fridge, or with a garden looking untidy) may be a sign that the person living there has dementia. They may lose the ability to do many of the things they normally do themselves, such as preparing meals, household chores and eating and drinking properly.
They may also struggle to maintain their personal hygiene (from washing and bathing to cleaning their teeth) and getting dressed. Deciding what to wear, how to put things on and in the right order may become increasingly difficult. Getting around the house without walking into furniture and other items (a lack of spatial awareness) may also be a problem.
- Alzheimer's Disease International, 'Early symptoms'. Online information.Alzheimer's Society (2011) 'The progression of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias'. Factsheet 458. London: Alzheimer's Society.Alzheimer's Society: 'Worried about your memory?' campaign.Healthtalk website: This website contains stories from 31 carers of people with dementia, some presented in videos, some in audio recordings. The stories cover a wide range of areas, including recognising the early signs of dementia and getting a diagnosis. The stories were recorded as part of research into patient experiences led by experts at the University of Oxford.NHS Choices website: 'Living with dementia' video: This features two carers describing the process leading up to and including diagnosis, and Professor Sube Banerjee explaining the importance of getting an early diagnosis.
- Alzheimer’s Society The Alzheimer’s Society produces over 80 factsheets on all sorts of topics related to dementia, including many that relate to early signs and diagnosis, including Risk factors for dementia (450), Assessment and diagnosis (426), After a diagnosis (471), and The progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias (458).healthtalk The healthtalk website contains stories from 31 carers of people with dementia, some presented in videos, some in audio recordings. The stories cover a wide range of areas, including recognising the early signs of dementia and getting the diagnosis.NHS Choices NHS Choices describes itself as the ‘online front door to the NHS’. It is the UK’s biggest health website and includes an A–Z of health conditions, including dementia, as well as explaining about treatments and how the health system works. The Dementia Guide on this site includes a section on Getting a dementia diagnosis, Benefits of early dementia diagnosis, and What to do if you’ve just been diagnosed with dementia.Unlocking diagnosis: The key to improving the lives of people with dementia. This All-Party Parliamentary Group of Dementia publication reports on the APPG’s 2012 inquiry into differing diagnosis rates – and the barriers for lifting these – around the UK.World Alzheimer Report 2011: The benefits of early diagnosis and intervention The Alzheimer’s Disease International 2011 report investigated the benefits and disadvantages of early diagnosis and intervention for people with dementia, the implications of early diagnosis for health and social care costs, and best practice in early intervention around the world.
Recognise These 12 Early Signs of Dementia
It can be hard to decipher the difference between natural memory loss from aging and early signs of dementia. How do you know if the behaviors you are seeing in an aging loved one are normal? Would you know the early signs of cognitive decline?
The National Institute on Aging reports that half of people over the age of 85 may have some form of dementia. This does not mean that dementia is an unavoidable part of aging. There are many people who never display signs of dementia, but receiving a diagnosis may be an ongoing concern for them.
Dementia is one of the main reasons that seniors will lose their independence. This affects millions of people, with over 50 million people currently living with it. Being aware of the signs of early dementia may allow you to recognize the symptoms in your loved one. Early diagnosis can assist you in getting help and accessing treatment for your loved one.
Watch for these 12 Early Signs of Dementia (And How to Help When You See Them)
As you interact with an aging loved one, watch for these early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s. One symptom doesn’t necessarily mean that they are developing dementia. However, several may mean that your loved one needs to be seen by a neurologist. The top twelve early signs and symptoms of dementia include
For some, one of the earliest signs of dementia is changes in vision. Your loved one may have trouble reading or seeing the differences in color or contrast. He or she may also begin to experience trouble judging distances which may lead to problems driving.
You may see that your loved one is struggling to resolve spatial relationships of various types, such as having trouble with the distance between the table and the chair or the distance between a glass and the shelf.
What You Might Notice: While visiting your mom, you ask her to pass you a paper you see on the light-colored countertop. She looks at you confused and can’t find the paper even though it is clearly visible to you.
How You Can Help: Ask if you can help with decluttering key areas of the house. Remove the things that are not useful. Use items that will stand out on plain surfaces, such as bright colored cups or placemats.
In the early stages of dementia, it can be difficult for your loved one to follow conversations. You may observe your loved one stopping in the middle of a conversation with no idea how to continue.
They may also struggle to find the right words. We all forget words from time to time and eventually remember them. People with dementia often cannot retrieve the word even after trying many times. Your loved one may also begin to repeat sentences within a conversation or say the same thing repeatedly in a short period of time.
What You Might Notice: You’ve called your dad up to let him know about your plans for Christmas. He sounds agreeable but as you are saying goodbye he says, “When are the kids coming for Easter? I need to buy some…some…box wrapping.”
How You Can Help: If you know what they are trying to say, don’t correct. Just agree and calmly provide the needed word. If they repeat themselves, remember that they are not aware of it. Listen and then continue the conversation in a different direction.
Dementia can change your loved one’s ability to make good judgments. They might seem they no longer know what is appropriate in social situations. Your loved one may ask strangers for odd things a tissue or a quarter.
What You Might Notice: When you are visiting with your aunt, she starts to tell the delivery person about how much money she has in her bank account.
How You Can Help: Treat your aunt with dignity and respect, you can join in the conversation quickly and provide a new topic to talk about.
Troubles with finances can indicate the earliest stage of dementia. Managing money requires you to be able to think, remember, and reason. These functions deteriorate with dementia. Your loved one may:
- No longer be able to keep track of spending
- Buy things but not remember why they did
- Give money to telemarketers or strangers
- Leave unpaid bills to stack up
- Leave an inappropriately large tip or not know how to settle the check
What You Might Notice: Your mom calls you in tears saying that her credit card has been denied and she can’t pay for her groceries this month.
How You Can Help: Ask her if you can help her by taking over paying the bills for a couple of months. Set up a budget together and make sure she has the money she needs on a prepaid credit card.
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be difficult. Home Care Assistance has worked with leading experts to develop training programs for our teams so they can provide the specialized care needed for seniors experiencing cognitive decline. You can contact a Care Advisor at 866-454-8346 or click here to schedule a free assessment and learn more about how we can support your needs.
If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, he or she may not be able to remember what day, date, or season it is. People with dementia may think they are in a different year, sometimes one in the past.
They may begin to lose the ability to understand that something happened “yesterday” or will happen “tomorrow”. Time begins to shrink, and dementia patients only understand what is happening in the here and now.
This confusion can extend to an understanding of place.
For example, your loved one may be sitting in your living room, but he or she may think they are in another place entirely – usually another place that is familiar and carries fond memories.
What You Might Notice: It’s a cold, blustery winter morning and you find your neighbor digging in his garden. When you ask, he says he is planting his spring garden even though spring is months away.
How You Can Help: Realize that this is the reality for your neighbor, don’t argue. Check often to make sure he is dressed warmly and safely returns to his house. You can suggest a safer related activity looking at a seed catalog.
Your usually outgoing loved one may suddenly stop participating in activities, social gatherings, or hobbies. Dementia may make it difficult to remember how to interact or conduct a hobby.
In the early stages of dementia, people may realize the changes that are happening and as a result, may avoid social interactions altogether.
Noisy and complicated gatherings can make it more difficult for them to cope.
What You Might Notice: Your mom has been a devoted member of her book club for 20 years. When you ask her what book they are reading she says “I’m not interested in that anymore.”
How You Can Help: Offer a simpler idea of a get-together. Maybe instead of attending a book club, your mom would be interested in having just one friend call her to discuss the book they read.
It is normal to occasionally forget what you had for lunch that day, but you should take note if your loved one is consistently forgetful. If you start to notice this type of behavior more often in a loved one, it may be a symptom of dementia. Although they can recall detailed memories from their childhood, they may forget where they parked the car.
What You Might Notice: Your husband was cheerfully chatting on the phone with your son this morning and after lunch, you ask him how your son is doing. He responds, “I haven’t talked to him recently.”
How You Can Help: Be patient. If he can’t remember the conversation, that is just what it is. Say you will call your son later and talk to him.
Another sign of dementia is trouble with following directions. Wandering in seniors is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia. Your loved one may get lost coming over to your house even though they have visited you many times before.
What You Might Notice: Your wife went out to drop off a package at a close friend’s house. She returns 2 hours later, angry and frustrated stating “I don’t know why they have to make the streets so complicated! Nothing is where it’s supposed to be!”
How You Can Help: Pay attention to the time of the day when your loved one seems to get lost. During these times, plan to avoid travel or busy places. Ask your loved one if they would be willing to wear an ID bracelet or carry a cell phone with a tracking device. Check-in on them if they haven’t arrived by a certain time.
Dementia can make it difficult to focus on a task. Your loved one may start a project and not be able to finish it. You might see this around the house in half-finished tasks.
The dishwasher sits half empty or may have dirty dishes mixed with clean! The washing machine could have day-old musty laundry.
Your loved one may no longer be able to follow the steps for a recipe or may not be able to follow the plot of a movie or novel.
What You Might Notice: You and your partner have been puzzle enthusiasts for years, the last time you tried to do a puzzle together your partner repeatedly wandered off and when he returned seemed confused by what you were doing.
How You Can Help: Go with the flow. If a puzzle is forgotten, that is okay. Help your partner make up visual lists for completing daily tasks such as emptying the dishwasher, getting ready for the day, or running laundry. Stick with a regular daily routine.
We all change as we move through life, but a clear warning sign of dementia is abrupt changes in your loved one’s personality. Dementia can cause changes in the brain that affect the ability to know what is appropriate.
Someone who has always been careful with their words may start saying whatever pops into their head. This can include often quite rude or sexually inappropriate comments.
When your loved one is behaving character, it is often because of changes in the brain.
What You Might Notice: Your mom has drilled into you since birth the importance of tact and politeness. She’s never spoken badly of anyone, but the last time you talked to her she said, “Have you noticed how fat your sister has gotten?”
How You Can Help: Try not to get upset. This is the changes in your mom’s brain causing the inappropriate comments. Don’t respond and change the subject to a more appropriate one.
Do you worry about leaving your loved one alone? Often in early dementia, you might notice that your loved one is not making safe decisions.
What You Might Notice: You might come in to find that an oven burner has been left on and the pot of water has boiled dry.
How You Can Help: Plan ahead to avoid disasters. Have the kitchen set up so that your loved one can’t turn on the stove. Remove sharp knives and large glass containers.
Troubles with driving in seniors can also be a symptom of dementia. Your loved one may get lost while driving in a familiar area. You might also notice that they are running stop signs.
What You Might Notice: Your parent’s car has developed new dings and scratches but your parent denies knowing how they happened.
How You Can Help: Offer to help your parent with running errands or give them a ride.
An Early Signs of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Checklist
Noticing potential signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s in a loved one can be stressful. It can help to write down what you see so that you can reference it later when talking to a health professional. Writing down what is normal for your loved one can also help you notice what might simply be normal signs of aging. Download our checklist so you can keep track of the changes see.
Early Signs of Alzheimer's/Dementia Checklist
How Caregivers Can Support a Loved One in the Early Stages of Dementia
In the early stages of dementia, your loved one will often be aware that things are not right. They need you to still treat them as the same person that you know. Don’t automatically assume that they can’t understand, remember, or do for themselves.
Try to understand how your loved one is feeling, especially as you approach the conversation of increasing the amount of care they will need.
Ask questions about what sort of help your loved one may want. Work together to find solutions to the many challenges that the early stages of dementia will bring.
Most of all, cherish and enjoy the time you have with your loved one. Laugh, dance, and take it slow. You don’t know what the next days will hold so embrace the good in each day you have together.
How to Prevent Dementia
Dementia is not a normal part of aging. Currently, there is no sure-fire way to prevent dementia but you can use these ten strategies to reduce your risk of dementia.
Before you start asking yourself, “how do I provide dementia care for a loved one?” try to understand the signs.
If you observe these early signs of dementia in a loved one, talk with his or her primary care physician, and ask for a referral to a neurologist for testing.
Early diagnosis can lead to treatment and strategies that can make life easier and less frustrating over the long haul.
Alzheimer’s Association: Early Stage Caregiving
National Institute on Aging: Managing Money Problems in Alzheimer’s Disease
National Institute on Aging: What is Dementia
World Health Organization: Dementia