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Sure Signs You May Have Dementia, Says CDC

Early detection is crucial.

Dementia—a progressive brain disorder that can affect a person's cognition, judgment, and ability to live an independent life—is a serious disease with one unavoidable risk factor: Getting older. According to the World Health Organization, dementia cases are expected to triple from their current rate by the year 2050, simply because so many of us are getting older. Early detection is crucial, because in many cases, the treatments are available that can slow progression of the disease. These are some of the signs that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says may indicate dementia. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


Trouble With Complex or Familiar Tasks 

or woman with papers or bills and calculator writing at home

A person with dementia may begin having trouble with reading, writing or complex mental tasks like balancing a checkbook, following directions, or making calculations. Familiar tasks, like paying bills, cooking frequently used recipes, may become difficult, the CDC says. Conversely, coping with the unfamiliar can be hard for a person with dementia, who may have trouble handling unexpected events or changes in routine.


Memory Loss

Memory Disorder

Someone with dementia is likely to experience memory loss as an early symptom. This may involve recent or important events, names and places, or where they left certain objects. 

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Attention Deficits

Sad mature woman puts her hand on her forehead.

A person with dementia may have trouble focusing on tasks or find it difficult to follow directions or conversations. It is very rare for older adults to receive a new diagnosis of attention-deficit disorder, experts say; new problems with attention are more suspicious for dementia.


Difficulty Communicating

Concerned aged mother and adult daughter sit on couch having serious conversation

A common early sign of dementia is the impaired ability to communicate, says the CDC. The affected person might have trouble finding the right words or finishing sentences.

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Getting Lost

Female neighbor giving senior woman a lift In car.

A person with dementia may become lost in places that were previously well-known, like in their own neighborhood or on a frequently driven route. They may forget how they got there and how to return home.


Coordination or Visual-Spatial Problems

Woman falling in bathroom because slippery surfaces

Dementia may cause an affected person to have trouble walking or maintaining coordination or motor skills, says the CDC. They may have difficulty staying balanced or judging distance, tripping over things at home, or dropping or spilling items more often.

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What to Do

Health visitor and a senior man during home visit.

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms that might indicate dementia, talk with your primary care doctor.  You may be referred to a specialist—a geriatrician, neurologist, or neuropsychologist—to make a full diagnosis. Although dementia is a progressive disease that currently has no cure, early diagnosis is important, so its progression can be arrested or slowed if possible. (It's important to note that not every symptom listed here means you have dementia; there are other potential causes.) 

To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael