There are ten signs that you shouldn’t ignore. They’re not in any particular order as dementia develops differently in everyone. We’ve also given examples of normal signs of ageing – these are nothing to worry about.
1) Memory loss that affects daily life
One of the most common signs of dementia is memory loss, especially forgetting recent information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking the same things over and over; relying on memory aids (such as notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
Don’t worry about: Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
2) Difficulty planning or solving problems
Some people become less able 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.
Don’t worry about: Making occasional mistakes.
3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks
People with dementia often find it hard to complete daily tasks. They may have trouble driving to a familiar place, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favourite game.
Don’t worry about: Needing occasional help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
4) 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. This can be an early indication, for example, getting up in the early hours as if it were daytime.
Don’t worry about: Getting confused about the day of the week but remembering later.
5) Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, vision problems are a sign of dementia. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining colour or contrast. They may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room because they don’t realise they are the person in the mirror.
Don’t worry about: Vision changes caused by cataracts or other eye problems which can lead to seeing things. It is important to see an optician/ophthalmologist if you notice problems with vision.
6) 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 (for example, calling a watch a ‘hand-clock’).
Don’t worry about: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word but remembering it eventually.
7) 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.
Don’t worry about: Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.
8) Decreased or poor judgment
People with dementia may have problems with judgment or decision-making. For example, they may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. They may use poor judgment when dealing with money.
Don’t worry about: Making a bad decision once in a while.
9) 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 forget how to carry out a hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
Don’t worry about: Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
10) Changes in mood and personality
The mood and personalities of people with dementia can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, resistant and/or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
Don’t worry about: Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted
If you are concerned that you or someone you know has any of these signs then please refer to a GP.