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Dementia Signs You Need to Know Now, Say Experts

Early detection is crucial.

Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that can affect a person's cognition, judgment, and ability to live independently. It has 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 much of the population is aging. Early detection is crucial, so progression of the disease can be slowed if possible. These are the potential dementia signs everyone should know. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Memory Loss

Stressed middle 60s aged worker woman massaging head suffering of headache in home office.

Someone with dementia is likely to experience memory loss as an early symptom. This may involve recent events, recently learned information like names and places, or where they left certain objects. Everyone misplaces their keys or phone at times, but a person with dementia may have trouble retracing their steps to find missing items.


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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The affected person might have trouble finding the right words or finishing sentences. They might use substitutes or talk around words they're unable to remember.

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Trouble With Complex or Familiar Tasks

Woiman sitting at the table worrying about the money.

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. Conversely, coping with the unfamiliar can be hard for a person with dementia, who may have trouble handling unexpected events or changes in routine.


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.

RELATED: The #1 Way to Stop Memory Loss, Say Experts


Coordination or Visual-Spatial Problems

Elderly stroke, Asian older woman suffer fall.

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.


Attention Deficits

Middle-aged businesswoman standing holding the frame of her glasses to her mouth as she stares pensively into the distance.

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

RELATED: If You Can't Remember This, You May Have Memory Loss


Changes in Mood or Personality

sad senior 70s grandmother look in distance thinking.

Personality or mood changes are an often overlooked early symptom of dementia. A person with early cognitive decline may spend less time with others and begin to self-isolate. They might become apathetic, losing interest in activities they had formerly enjoyed. Family members might misinterpret these changes as depression, anxiety, or stress. 

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What to Do

Healthcare worker at 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. And 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