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Early Warning Signs of Dementia

So you know what is the most confusing part about dementia? It is not actually a disease.

Dementia can rather be termed as a collection of signs and symptoms that could be the result of a number of diseases. Some of the main early warning signs of dementia include impaired thinking, communication problems and early traces of memory loss.

One of the main causes of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia could also be the result of brain damage caused by a stroke injury. Other diseases like Huntington’s or Lewy body dementia could lead to dementia.

Early Warning Signs of Dementia

Early Warning Signs of Dementia

There are important early warning signs and symptoms of dementia that you should look out for. An individual could experience any one or more of these early warning signs of dementia in varying degrees. If you have noticed a sign, it is imperative that you visit a doctor.

Here are the early warning signs of dementia you should watch out for:

Memory Loss is One of the Early Warning Sign of Dementia

Short-term memory loss could be an early sign of dementia. You will notice subtle changes over a span of time. A person may be able to remember what they did 20-30 years ago but may fail to recollect what they had for breakfast or lunch.

Other short-term memory changes include forgetting where the car keys are, failing to remember why they are in a particular place, or even forgetting what it is they were supposed to do on a given day.

However, it is important to note that memory loss may not be conclusive proof that a person has dementia. There should be at least two types of impairment before prescribing a dementia diagnosis. Impaired communication, focus and reason should be considered, in addition to remembering things.

Failure in Communication as an Early Warning Sign of Dementia

One of the other important early warning signs of dementia includes finding it difficult to communicate ideas and thoughts in the way one wants. A person might not find the correct words to say at a given time. One may know what they want to say, but will fail to manifest them in words. This could often lead to frustration.

A conversation with elderly people could take forever to conclude as they find it difficult to say what they want to say coherently.

Mood Changes as an Early Warning Sign of Dementia

Mood swings and changes can also be associated with dementia. However, it is not always easy to pin-point this particular aspect of dementia if you go through it. You might be able to recognize this sign in someone else. Depression is among the common signs of dementia.

Apart from changes in mood, one might also notice a shift in personality. One of the common personality changes include a shift from being an extrovert after living life as an introvert. Why does this happen? Because, dementia tends to affect a person’s judgment.

Apathy as an Early Warning Sign of Dementia

One of the other early signs of dementia is apathy or listlessness. One might notice that a loved one has started losing interest in hobbies or activities that they once enjoyed. A person with these early symptoms may not enjoy going out or doing “fun stuff” anymore. They may also start to lose interest in spending time with family and friends. This apart, they could also become emotionally distant.

Problems in Completing Everyday Tasks Can be an Early Warning Sign of Dementia

A person will also experience a subtle change in their ability to perform everyday tasks. This could start with a person finding it difficult to complete complex tasks like maintaining accounts or playing games that come with a host of rules.

This apart, you could notice that an elderly loved one may be struggling to learn how to follow routines which they found easy to complete earlier.

Confusion Can also be an Early Warning Sign of Dementia

The early onset of dementia could be characterized by bouts of confusion. A person might not be able to think or could be confused when it comes to recognizing faces or expressing ideas during a conversation. Interacting with family and friends could also become a strain. Confusion could arise over remembering plans made for the next day.

Losing Sense of Direction as an Early Warning Sign of Dementia

One of the early warning signs of dementia may include losing sense of direction in addition to an impaired spatial orientation. This could lead to a person not recognizing once well-known landmarks and losing track of everyday directions to familiar places. A person might also find it difficult to follow or understand detailed instructions.

Repetition of Activity or Speech May be an Early Warning Sign of Dementia

A common early warning sign of dementia is repetition, which is caused by failing memory and other behavioral changes. A person may start to repeat everyday routines like shaving or even washing clothes. During a conversation, they could repeat sentences or anecdotes that they may have shared a few minutes back. They may also ask you to repeat answers to questions you might have already addressed.

Opposing Change as an Early Sign of Dementia

For a person suffering from early signs of dementia, change can be frightening. They may not be able to recognize familiar faces or comprehend what people are telling them. They could lose their way home even if they go for a walk a few minutes away from home.

These signs could prompt them to crave routine, coupled with an unwillingness to change. When a person is not open to new changes, it spells an early onset of dementia.

What to do When You Notice These Early Warning Signs of Dementia?

If you notice any of the early signs listed, you should not ignore them. You can opt for treatments that could slow down the symptoms of dementia. While there is no cure for dementia, there is medication you can take that will help deal with some of the symptoms like memory loss or confusion.

Planning for the future is important. A person can decide on living options, financial and legal matters for the future. One can also participate in assembling a care team and support network for family members who will be affected by the “disorder”.

However, you can always start by visiting a doctor to evaluate the early signs of dementia.


    1. Alzheimer’s Association: “10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s”: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs
    2. Mayo Clinic: “Dementia”: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20352013

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 11, 2023

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