10 Early Symptoms of Dementia: Be Aware of Subtle Signs

Based on the World Health Organization, there are 47 million people with dementia currently in the world and by 2030 the number will rise to 75 million. Dementia includes brain diseases that affect memory and behavior in a patient, as well as thinking and thus impairs everyday activities. This is a serious condition which affects both patients and their loved ones often presenting as an overwhelming experience.

However, not every memory problem points to the onset of dementia. A person must show at least two of one of the following early symptoms in order to suspect dementia.

1. The problem to find the right words

The problem to find the right words in everyday communication is the usual early symptom for dementia. The patient will struggle to express themselves with right words and that will also affect the persons who participate in the conversation. The communication may last longer due to this problem so the interlocutor must have patience and understanding.

2. Slight changes in the short-term memory

Problems with memory may not mean that the person will get dementia, but it is one of the early symptoms nonetheless. This involves changes in the short-term memory so the person may have problems to remember what happened that day, but will remember something from years ago. This also includes forgetfulness like having trouble remembering where they left something or what they are supposed to do.

3. Occurrence of listlessness

A person experiencing listlessness or apathy shows no interest in the world around them. This includes spending time with loved ones which makes them emotionally closed off. Also, this symptom presents itself in a loss of interest in fun activities and hobbies.

4. Difficulty to remember the meaning of words

Just like patients can’t find the right words, they can also forget their meaning which makes it difficult for them to follow storylines. They will have a tough time to understand conversations, movies and even books. This is actually a common early symptom and a person affected by it will need your help since they will become afraid and agitated.

5. Being repetitive

It’s very common for patients suffering from dementia to become repetitive. This happens due to the changes in their behavior and loss of memory. The symptom includes repeating the same question during a conversation, repeating certain tasks several times or develop obsessive urge to collect items.  

6. Hard time to accept the change

Since people with dementia get confused and scared due to their forgetfulness and inability to manage everyday chores, they will need routine. It will help them to stay focused and get a sense of presence in their environment. For this reason, dementia patients don’t like change and have trouble to adapt to it.

7. Experiencing frequent confusions

Every country has national organizations like, for example, Dementia Australia which organizes helplines for patients and their caretakers. These organizations can also help you deal with early symptoms like confusion which happens when a person can’t remember people and interact normally. This symptom will present itself in the simplest tasks like misplacing common things like house keys or having difficulty remembering what comes next during the day.

8. The difficulty with normal tasks

If a person is experiencing problems in completing normal everyday tasks, they may be suffering from the early symptom of dementia. It starts with complex tasks that have a lot of rules and then reflects the simpler ones, like the ones that are familiar. Additionally, a person may have problems to learn something new, as well.  

9. Mood changes

Mood changes are often recognized by the people closest to the person suffering from them. The onset of depression is very common for the early stage of dementia. Also, a dementia patient will also present personality shifts like becoming outgoing while before the person was shy.

10. Losing the sense of direction

Losing the sense of direction is a common symptom in dementia patients and it only gets worse over time. A person won’t recognize the landmarks they otherwise know and will easily get lost in the familiar environment. This also includes the inability to follow instructions no matter how detailed they are.  


Although some symptoms here may not mean a person has dementia, it’s best to go and see a healthcare professional. Early symptoms of dementia may appear as results of fatigue and thus people tend to ignore them. With timely treatment, it is possible to slow down dementia and prolong mental function.

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  • There are steps you can take to improve cognitive health and reduce your or your loved one’s risk of developing dementia. This includes keeping the mind active, being physically active, and making other healthy lifestyle changes.

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