Early signs of dementia

Memory loss

One of the most common early signs of dementia is forgetting recently learned information. While it’s normal to forget appointments, names, or telephone numbers, those with dementia will forget such things more often and not remember them later.

Difficulty performing familiar tasks

People with dementia often find it hard to complete everyday tasks that are so familiar we usually do not think about how to do them. A person with Alzheimer’s may not know the steps for preparing a meal, using a household appliance, or participating in a lifelong hobby.

Problems with language

Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s disease often forgets simple words or substitutes unusual words, making his or her speech or writing hard to understand. If a person with Alzheimer’s is unable to find his or her toothbrush, for example, the individual may ask for “that thing for my mouth.”

Poor or decreased judgment

No one has perfect judgment all of the time. Those with Alzheimer’s may dress without regard to the weather, wearing several shirts or blouses on a warm day or very little clothing in cold weather. Individuals with dementia often show poor judgment about money, giving away large amounts of money to telemarketers or paying for home repairs or products they don’t need.

Problems with abstract thinking

Balancing a checkbook may be hard when the task is more complicated than usual. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease could forget completely what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them.

Misplacing things

Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or key. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

Changes in mood or behavior

Everyone can become sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can show rapid mood swings—from calm to tears to anger—for no apparent reason.

Changes in personality

People’s personalities ordinarily change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can change a lot, becoming extremely confused, suspicious, fearful, or dependent on a family member.

Loss of initiative

It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities, or social obligations at times. The person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the television for hours, sleeping more than usual, or not wanting to do usual activities.

If you recognize any warning signs in yourself or a loved one, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends consulting a physician. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders causing dementia is an important step in getting appropriate treatment, care, and support services.