Early and Warning Signs of Dementia

Early and Warning Signs of Dementia

By Ritchie Verano


Dementia is a term used to define a group of symptoms related to different changes in how our brain functions. This condition can affect anyone.  As we age the risk of developing dementia increases. 

Dementia is caused by damage or injury to the brain and will result in a loss of brain tissue/loss of nerve cells. 

The symptoms of dementia are different in everyone. Symptoms depend on the area of the brain affected.

Dementia can impact memory, ability to think rationally, personality, communication, reasoning, social abilities, mood, and behaviour.  It interferes with realising goals and creates difficulty performing activities of daily living.

Early signs and symptoms of dementia are subtle and difficult to assess.  These differ in everyone; however, the common early symptoms may include problems with memory; specifically recognising recent events and situations, loss of skills to perform activities of daily living, changes with personality and behaviour, signs of apathy, depression, and withdrawal, signs of increasing confusion and decreased concentration.

Common early warning signs include memory loss that impacts on activities of daily living and functions such as   forgetting meeting dates, appointments, the names of family/relatives/friends, important contact numbers and then remembering them later. The person may have issues recalling conversations and request that conversations be repeated.

Implementing routine and familiar tasks will become difficult. A simple example; a person who previously loved baking may become easily distracted and forget certain steps. This type of behaviour can be the first triggers that something is wrong.  

Utilising appropriate language/words may become a problem.  A person with Dementia might have difficulty finding the appropriate words/language to use when starting and following conversations. They might not be able to remember the conversation or start to contribute and become confused. It is important when around someone who shows confusion to use simple words and clear direction with appropriate responses.   

It is quite common for the person living with dementia to forget the day of the week, current time or the day or the location they were going to.  A person with Dementia may have trouble identifying their way to a familiar place or become are confused regarding their current location and time of the day.

Decreased or poor skills in decision making will cause a person with Dementia to make frequent, irrational decisions and noticeably neglect their physical appearance.

Performing complex activities and abstract thinking will become increasingly problematic.  The person with dementia will find it difficult to assess, plan and manage their finances and budget.  They will experience issues in planning, keeping track and implementing financial planning and activities appropriately.

Frequently misplacing common items such as keys and wallets is often an issue and these are usually found in very inappropriate places.  We might temporarily misplace keys, wallets, and other personal belongings whereas a person with dementia may always place things in unsuitable places and locations.

Mood and behaviour changes will also become event.  We may experience sadness and become moody occasionally due to different events and unpredictable situations.  A person with Dementia becomes sad or can exhibit a sudden shifting of mood without valid reason.  They may also display confusion, suspicion, and withdrawal.

Problems interacting and personality changes will become evident.  A person with Dementia may present sudden personality changes, they may become more outspoken, inconsiderate, not confident to deal with challenges and display social withdrawal. They will lose interest and initiative, withdrawing from the world as they know it and creating pain for those witnessing it.

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