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If You Can't Do These 5 Things, Get Checked for Dementia

Here are five signs of dementia you might not be aware of.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to the CDC, 6.2 million people in the U.S are living with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia. "Diagnosing dementia and its many types can be challenging for physicians," says Glen Stevens, DO, PhD. "It is estimated that 5% of individuals over the age of 65 have severe dementia, and 10 to 15% are at least mildly impaired. As the size of the elderly population expands, the number of individuals with dementia will inevitably increase. Early and accurate diagnosis is the major objective in dementia evaluation." Here are five warning signs of dementia you should never ignore. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Not Understanding Humor or Sarcasm

older man with dementia talking to doctor
Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke

Struggling to pick up on sarcasm or losing the ability to understand a joke could be an early symptom of dementia. "Early signs of dementia include changes to language, behaviors and responses to social cues," says Hannah Churchill, research communications manager at Alzheimer's Society. 

"If you find your sense of humor has changed significantly, it might be worth getting some medical advice," says Katie Puckering, information services manager for Alzheimer's Research UK.


You're Suddenly Unhappy

Middle aged barefoot woman sitting at the floor embracing her knees, near sofa at home, her head down

Changes in mood could be a sign of dementia. "Scientists have long known that depression and dementia go hand in hand," says Dr Cornelia Cremens, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "If somebody appears to have the beginnings of dementia and they are depressed, it's very important to treat their depression, and to treat it as aggressively as possible."

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Keep Control of Finances

Surprised senior mature woman counting bills at home.

Unexplained financial issues—for example, allowing bills to remain unpaid—could be a symptom of dementia. "They might start making purchases they have not made before or fall prey to scams because judgment and their ability to understand the consequences of decisions may be impaired," says Dr. James Galvin, MD, MPH.

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Memory Loss

Comforting Senior Husband Suffering With Dementia

"One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's dementia is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information," according to the 2021 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report from the Alzheimer's Association. "Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (for example, reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things that used to be handled on one's own."

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Issues With Walking

Senior couple walking on beach.

There is growing evidence that dementia can be seen from the way a person walks, and could even be used for early diagnosis: "They walked slower with shorter steps, were more variable and asymmetric, and spent longer with both feet on the ground compared to control subjects," says Ríona McArdle, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Brain and Movement Group, Newcastle University. "This shows that people with dementia have significant walking problems, and that we need to look at this in people at risk of developing dementia to see if it can predict the onset of the condition."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan