Symptoms of Dementia

If you or a loved one is starting to have memory issues, do not immediately self-diagnose as dementia. To receive a dementia diagnosis one needs to have at least two types of impairment that significantly interfere with everyday life. In addition to difficulty remembering, the person may also experience impairments in language, communication, focus, or reasoning.

Subtle Short-Term Memory Changes

Trouble with memory is often an early symptom of dementia. The changes can be subtle and usually involve short-term memory. Sometimes an older person may be able to remember events from years past but not what they had to eat this morning. Other symptoms of changes in short-term memory include frequently misplacing items, forgetting why they entered a particular room, or not remembering their plans on any given day.

Can’t Find the Right Words?

Another early symptom of dementia is difficulty communicating thoughts. A person with dementia may often have trouble explaining something or finding the right words to make their thoughts known. Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be extremely tough, and it will likely take longer than usual to conclude.

Mood Changes

Mood changes are also common with dementia. If you have dementia, you cannot often recognize this in yourself, but you may notice this change in someone else. Depression, for instance, is quite typical of early dementia. In addition to mood changes, you might also see a shift in personality. A typical personality change seen with dementia is a shift from being shy to outgoing. This happens because the condition often affects a person’s judgment.


Early dementia is often accompanied by listlessness. It’s possible that a person with symptoms could lose interest in their hobbies or other activities. They may lose interest in going out anymore or doing anything they once did for fun. They may begin to lose interest in socializing with friends and family, and they may seem emotionally flat.

Problems Completing Normal Tasks

A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks may be an indication of the onset of early dementia. This usually starts with difficulty balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules. These tasks instead of being merely complex become baffling. Along with the struggle to complete familiar tasks, learning how to do new things or following new routines may become quite a struggle for someone beginning to experience dementia.

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Frequent Confusion

Someone in the early stages of dementia may become confused quite often. Confusion may arise when they can no longer remember faces, find the right words, or interact with people normally. Confusion can occur various reasons and come up in a variety of different situations. For example, they may misplace their car keys, forget what they had planned next for their day, or have difficulty remembering someone they’ve met before.

Difficulty Following Storylines

Following storylines may become difficult for those experiencing dementia. In fact, it is a classic early symptom. Just as finding and using the right words becomes difficult, someone with dementia can forget the meanings of words they hear or struggle to follow along with conversations or TV programs.

Losing Sense of Direction

Deterioration of the sense of direction and spatial orientation is common with the onset of dementia. This can mean forgetting regularly used directions or not recognizing once-familiar landmarks. It also becomes quite a bit more difficult to follow a series of directions and step-by-step instructions.

Constant Repetition

Repetition is common in dementia because of memory loss and general behavioral changes. The person may repeat daily tasks, such as shaving, or they may collect items obsessively. They also may repeat the same questions in a conversation after they’ve been answered.

Difficulty Adapting to Change

Fear can be a result for someone in the early stages of dementia. All of a sudden, they can’t remember people they know well. They have difficulty following what others are saying to them. They can’t remember why they went to the store, or maybe they get lost on the way home. As a result, they might crave routine and be afraid to try new things. So as you can imagine, problems adapting to change is also a typical symptom of early dementia.