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Early Warning Signs of Dementia Your Family Should Know (1)More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association, and the number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million by 2050. What's more, while Alzheimer's disease is the most prevalent type of dementia, there are others as well. As such, you may wonder if some of the forgetfulness your loved one has been experiencing is cause for concern. To help, here are the early warning signs of dementia that you should watch for. 

Dementia details 

You may be surprised to learn that Alzheimer's disease and dementia are not one and the same. Dementia is not a disease in and of itself but rather a term used to describe symptoms affecting thinking, memory, and behavior. The types of dementia include:  

  • Alzheimer's disease 
  • Vascular dementia 
  • Lewy body dementia 
  • Frontotemporal dementia 
  • Parkinson's disease 
  • Hydrocephalus 
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease 
  • Huntington's disease 
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome 

Moreover, there are a range of conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia. However, while many dementias progress over time, some can be reversed, such as those caused by a brain tumor, fluid on the brain, thyroid problems, and vitamin deficiencies, which makes early diagnosis vital for your loved one. 


Download our Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing the Early Signs of Dementia.


Early warning signs of dementia 

Although people with dementia often have measurable brain changes prior to showing symptoms, in most cases, the changes appear very slowly. That's why it's so easy to mistake the signs of dementia for normal aging. But there is a difference. For example, normal aging may include the following:  

  • Forgetting details of a long past conversation. 
  • Occasionally forgetting things or having difficulties with word-finding. 
  • Struggling to recall an acquaintance's name from time to time. 

But these things don't undermine the person's ability to function or live independently.  

On the other hand, the following symptoms should serve as potential early warning signs of dementia: 

  • Frequently having difficulty remembering words, confusing pronouns, or slow and effortful speech. 
  • Changes in word comprehension or reading.  
  • Asking for the same information repeatedly. 
  • Memory loss that undermines daily function or quality of life, like forgetting the way home, paying bills, or turning off the stove. 
  • Difficulties with problem-solving and planning, like following a recipe, managing money, or getting from one place to another. 
  • Temporospatial confusion, such as the person thinking they live in an earlier time or different location. 
  • Forgetting loved ones, confusing loved ones, or repeatedly forgetting a loved one's name. 
  • Difficulties with vision, abstract representations, or spatial relationships like understanding familiar signs or assessing the distance between two points. 
  • Frequently losing things and being unable to retrace steps.  
  • Changes in mood or personality, including unexplained depression, aggression, anxiety, sleep problems, and/or loss of impulse control. 
  • Signs of poor judgment, such as giving a stranger checking account information. 
  • Withdrawing from hobbies, social functions, or family.  

Next steps for your loved one 

If you're still unsure whether the symptoms you observe in your loved one are normal aging or something more, encourage them to get an evaluation from their physician. If it's not dementia, you can both rest easy. But if it is, being proactive allows for more treatment options and can help you both better plan for the future. 

How can you best support your loved one if they do have dementia? Remember that dementia is a progressive disease, and in the early stages, your loved one will still be primarily independent. So initially, you'll want to be particularly supportive of your loved one's emotional needs and process your own regarding this devastating diagnosis. Reassure your loved one that you will work together, that you will honor their wishes as best you can, and seriously consider a dementia support group or psychotherapist to help you both cope. Although it may seem counterintuitive, it's also vital to continue taking care of yourself so you can be the best advocate for your loved one's care.  

To learn more, download our Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing the Early Signs of Dementia today.

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Written by All American