Signs & symptoms

The early signs and symptoms of dementia can vary from one person to another and may differ depending on the type of dementia a person has.  Some people find they experience physical as well as mental changes.  Below are some of the common early signs and symptoms of dementia.  We hope it gives you a better idea of the things to look out for.  

Memory loss that disrupts daily life
One of the most common signs of dementia is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information.  Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; increasingly needing to rely on memory aids or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers.  They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.  They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

Difficulty in completing tasks at home, work or leisure
People with dementia often find it hard to complete daily tasks.  Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favourite game.

Confusion with time or place
People with dementia can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time.  They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately.  Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of dementia.  They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining colour or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with dementia may have trouble following or joining a conversation.  They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves.  They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name.

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person with dementia may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again.  Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing.  This may occur more frequently over time.

Decreased or poor judgement
People with dementia may experience changes in judgment or decision-making.  For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money.  They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. 

Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person with dementia may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports.  They may have trouble keeping up with a favourite sports team or remembering how to complete a favourite hobby.  They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced. 

Changes in mood and personality
The mood and personalities of people with dementia can change.  They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious.  They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. 

Just because you think you may be experiencing some of the signs, does not necessarily mean that you have dementia.  

If you have any cause for concern, it is a good idea to make an appointment to see your doctor and discuss it with them.  Seeing a doctor early on can reduce the anxiety and worry you may be feeling and provide you with answers.

The Young Dementia Network has created a Personal checklist which is intended to help a person to be aware of the most common signs and symptoms of young onset dementia and record changes and symptoms they may be experiencing.  The information can be used to provide prompts for a conversation with a GP or health professional.  We hope you will find it useful.  Click here.

Read Jane's story which shares one couple's experience of the period before diagnosis.  

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