Early Signs of Dementia

How will I know if my mom or dad has dementia? Early signs of dementia that we can all relate to.

The topic of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss is about as complicated and confusing as the disease itself. Experts around the world work tirelessly to identify ways to combat memory loss. Yet, 50 million people across the world are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia every day.

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease, and the most common form of dementia. If detected and treated early, treatments may provide some relief of symptoms. This will also allow you and your loved one to maintain a level of independence longer, while discussing and implementing lifestyle changes.

Memory Loss

An expert once told me that true memory loss is not my mom forgetting where she put the keys, but the fact that she didn’t know what the keys were for. Or the time when my grandfather was at the kitchen table and picked up his fork, not knowing what it was. He quickly laughed it off with the rest of us as he began eating with it after we told him.  

Increased Confusion

One of my best friends received an unusual call from a family friend of hers. The friend was concerned that after 45 years, her mother had rarely missed one of their weekly bridge sessions. But over the past few months, her mom missed several. After calling Mom a few times, the friend said she claimed to have forgotten or had something else going on that day. Another time, Mom was confused because she thought it was the weekend.

Personality Changes

There were times when we went to visit grandma and she would get more agitated than usual. Maybe the grandkids were being too loud, or someone forgot to throw a plate away. What used to go unnoticed, now caused her extreme frustration. 

Disinterested in Social Activities

Another early sign to look for can be disinterest in social activities. My friend used to talk about how much her grandpa loved going to the local grocery store for coffee with the guys each Saturday and Sunday. She noticed him going less and less and eventually stopped going for coffee, to card club and was less interested in attending church. 

Problem with Words

Often times those with dementia will struggle with speaking or writing words. Take a look at the grocery list and see if there are any unusual misspellings. Notice if their cards are written differently or if they struggle to find the right word when talking on the phone. 

All of us can relate to having the occasional forgetful moment, or periodically having trouble finding the right word. However, those living with dementia may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may pause in the middle of a conversation and not know where to go next or how to finish it.

There is a difference between not knowing what day of the week it is, but remembering it shortly thereafter, and losing track of important dates and seasons. The former is a normal age-related change and the latter, more often a common theme of dementia.

All of these are signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Recognizing them early and visiting with a doctor is the best first step to take. The Alzheimer’s Association is also a tremendous resource for families to connect with directly. They often have a local resource who can offer advice and support. Click here to learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association.