Ten early signs of dementia

How do you know if memory loss and confusion are just signs of getting older or the first indicators that something more sinister is afoot? Knowing the warning signs will help you get the timely support you need.

The first symptoms and warning signs of dementia can be subtle and often people mistake them for normal signs of ageing.  Common symptoms such as problems with your memory, especially about recent events, confusion, a change in personality or feeling apathetic towards something you used to enjoy can be an indicator that something is wrong. If you experience several of the warning signs below it’s time to consult your doctor.

1. Short-term memory loss which inhibits you from doing day-to-day tasks.
Forgetting what you went upstairs to get or what bus takes you in to town, only to remember soon after, happens to us all. Those suffering from dementia may experience forgetfulness more frequently and never remember.

2. Difficulties doing day-to-day tasks.
It’s easy to get distracted and forget to read the paper or put the bins out, but someone with dementia may forget that they have had the paper delivered or that the bins need to go out at all.

3. Not finding the right words.
We all get a little tongue-tied or forget what we were about to say. However, those with dementia may substitute inappropriate words or forget simple words.

4. Not knowing where you are or what day of the week it is.
A momentary lapse in forgetting which day of the week it is, is not something to be concerned about, but if you become lost in familiar surroundings or are confused about the month and year, this is more serious.

5. Hindered judgement.
If being able to judge the speed of traffic or distance of oncoming cars while driving is becoming more difficult, then this may be a sign that memory and concentration is affected.

6. Problems with abstract thinking.
If numbers on a bank statement mean nothing and you can’t relate to what they are depicting, then this may be a sign of dementia.

7. Misplacing things.
While it’s common for most people to forget where they’ve left something now and again, those with dementia may consistently put things in the wrong place, such as keys in the freezer.

8. Mood swings or unexplained behaviour.
We can all get a little irrational or grumpy from time to time but if someone is suffering rapid mood swings or a complete change in personality, this may be an indicator that something more serious is wrong.

9. Changes in personality.
As we get older, our personalities change but a person with dementia can suffer severe personality changes such as becoming uninhibited and more outgoing than previous.

10. Apathy.
It’s common to get fed up or bored with certain things but someone with dementia may lose all initiative to do things they have previously enjoyed.

Of course, you need to keep things in perspective and recognise that all these behaviours may be a sign of something else. It’s important to consult a doctor and be honest about your general health and wellbeing to ensure a correct diagnosis.

For more information on diagnosing dementia, visit Alzheimer’s Australia.

Written by Debbie McTaggart